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VA Launches Veterans Community Care Program

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Shelley Starkey

VA Launches Veterans Community Care Program

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week announced improvements to the way the agency collaborates with non-VA, community health providers by ending the Veterans Choice Program and establishing a new Veterans Community Care Program. The new changes aim to provide better access to high-quality health care for the 9 million veterans served by the VA by expanding eligibility for community care, providing a new urgent care benefit, and modernizing and streamlining certain processes.

CHANGES EXPAND ACCESS TO COMMUNITY-BASED CARE

In order to comply with the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 (MISSION Act), the VA on June 6 sunset its Veterans Choice Program, a program that allowed veterans who received their care at the VA to receive services at community-based providers that are not directly linked to the VA system should they meet certain eligibility requirements. Under the MISSION Act and the new Veterans Community Care Program, the VA is seeking to streamline their processes to make it easier for veterans to receive the care they need. Changes include:

  • Combining existing programs into one single Veterans Community Care Program to limit the complexity and likelihood of errors for veterans utilizing this benefit
  • Improving customer service by improving education and communications resources for veterans, Veteran Service Organization partners, and VA employees connected to the Community Care Program
  • Adding an urgent care benefit, which will allow eligible veterans to access non-emergency care within the network of community providers without prior authorization from the VA
  • Establishing a new Community Care Network (CCN), administered through third-party administrators, who will be required to make timely payments to community providers
  • Modernizing IT systems to speed up all aspects of community care and improve communication between veterans, community providers, and the VA

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COMMUNITY PROVIDERS

 All Veterans Care Program Provider Agreements are officially expired as of June 6 with the sunset of the program. Community providers may continue providing services for VA-affiliated veterans by participating in a contracted network administered by contracted third-party administrators, TriWest Healthcare Alliance and Optum Public Sector Solutions, Inc. Under certain circumstances, community providers may also contract directly with the VA to participate in the program.

A directory of community care providers is available on the VA’s website, and more information is available on the changes under the MISSION Act.

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