VA Expands Choice Program Eligibility
In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will change the calculation used to determine the distance between a veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility from a straight line distance to driving distance. The policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks. The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA).
“VA has worked very quickly to implement the Veterans Choice Program and we appreciate the constructive feedback shared by Veterans and our partners to help us improve service to veterans,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “We’ve determined that changing the distance calculation will help ensure more veterans have access to care when and where they want it. VA looks forward to the ongoing support of our partners as we continue to make improvements to this new program.”
The method of determining driving distance will be through distance as calculated by using a commercial product. The change is expected to roughly double the number of eligible veterans.
The Veterans Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit that allows eligible veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program should call 1-866-606-8198 to confirm their eligibility and to schedule an appointment. Since the Choice Program went into effect on November 5, 2014, more than 45,000 medical appointments have been scheduled.
Using expanded authorities from VACAA, VA continues to expand access to care through increased staffing and enhanced collaboration with both the Indian Health Service and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems.
VA is enhancing its health care system and improving service delivery to better serve veterans and set the course for long-term excellence and reform. VA has made significant progress in various areas of the legislation, such as extending the Assisted Living/Traumatic Brain Injury Pilot program and Project Arch, to expand timely access to high-quality health care for Veterans.
For more details about the department’s progress and related information, see www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/factsheets_and_details.asp and www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/FactSheets/Progress-Report-March-2015-Fact-Sheet.pdf.
A fact sheet on the 40-mile-rule change can be found at www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/FactSheets/March-2015-40-mile-rule-change-factsheet.pdf.