Temple: Act allows veterans to seek care outside VA system

Olin E. Teague Veterans' Medical Center. (VA photo/file)
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) The MISSION or Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act launched June 6 to address concerns with the former Choice Act to help veterans in rural areas by allowing them to seek healthcare outside of the VA system.

It means veterans can now get care at non VA clinics if they have to wait more than 20 days for primary or mental health care or if they have to wait more than 28 days for specialty care at a VA clinic.

They may also use non-VA services if they are 30 minutes or more from a primary care or mental health care center or more than an hour, on average, from a specialty care facility.

The change takes drive-time into account.

The Choice Act said veterans needed to be at least 40 miles from the closest VA in order to seek care somewhere else, and had to wait more than 30 days.

Less than two weeks after the VA began the new care program, it is already being put to use.

“Urgent care seems to have been a big bonus that people are using already.” Said Chief of the Care in the Community project through Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System, Karla Barth.

That change in urgent care is allows veterans to get immediate care at private providers.

“In the past we've been able to send patients to care in the community but it's never kind of been by their choice or in the best medical interest.” Barth said.

Several veterans across central Texas from McLennan, Bell and Milam counties all had a similar concern with the MISSION ACT, wondering if civilian health care is prepared to handle vet needs.

“Whether it's the mental health issues whether it's the background of the different wars, every different service era has a different problem with it unique to them.” Barth explains.

But she says thanks to this act, those private providers will be trained on caring for veterans.

Officials stress veterans still need to use providers in their network and communicate with the VA before seeking care at another facility.