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Eligible vets can use some civilian urgent care services starting June 6

Concentra urgent care medical center (Dwight Burdette/WikiCommons)
June 05, 2019

Veterans meeting certain criteria will be able to seek minor medical care at urgent care centers nationwide beginning June 6.

Instead of being limited to VA facilities in most circumstances, veterans who have had continuous medical coverage for the preceding 24 months will be able to see doctors at certain civilian urgent care facilities across the country for the treatment of minor injuries and illnesses, reported.

However, veterans must meet certain eligibility requirements, and not all treatment, urgent care doctors or facilities are covered.

“The urgent care benefit covers treatment of non-emergent symptoms such as flu-like symptoms (coughs and colds), wheezing, sprains, sore throats, painful urination, bumps and bruises, ear pain, and mild skin irritations, which are typically addressed by urgent care facilities and walk-in retail health clinics. Excluded from the benefit are preventive and dental services,” the VA said in an announcement.

The new program expands on the Veterans Choice Act, which was passed in 2014 after numerous media outlets uncovered complications with veterans being able to see VA doctors in a reasonable time frame.

“VA officials previously estimated the new rules could increase the number of veterans eligible for VA-sponsored private care to as many as 2.1 million – up from about 560,000,” USA Today reported.

“VA can only pay for care under this benefit if the Veteran is eligible, the services are not excluded under the benefit, and the provider is part of VA’s contracted network of community providers and is identified as an urgent care provider. If an eligible Veteran goes to an out-of-network urgent care provider, they may be required to pay the full cost of care,” the VA said in another announcement.

Veterans may have to pay a $30 co-pay depending on the level of services provided to them, their VA Priority Group, and the number of times that they see a civilian doctor. The program will cover three free civilian doctor visits annually.

Vets are encouraged to check to see if a potential provider is approved by the program ahead of time in order to avoid any out of pocket fees.

There is no co-payment for any Priority Group for flu shots.

A co-pay may be required for prescriptions depending on Priority Group, however. Any prescriptions from non-VA doctors should be filled at a VA network pharmacy to avoid extra cost. Opting to use an out of network pharmacy will require full payment at full price and reimbursement from VA after a claim is filed.