One of the VA’s solutions to the problem of timely care was the Veterans Choice Program. VCP was described on the VA official site as “a benefit that allows eligible Veterans to receive health care from a community provider.” It was an alternative to waiting for a VA appointment to become available or making a long journey to the nearest VA medical facility.
VA no longer offers community care to Veterans under the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) but veterans may be eligible for community care under the “Grandfather” provision related to distance eligibility for VCP.
Veterans Community Care (VCC) Program The Replacement to the Veterans Choice Program
In order to comply with the MISSION Act of 2018, the VA on June 6, 2019 sunset its Veterans Choice Program, a program that allowed veterans who received care at the VA to see non-VA community-based providers based upon certain eligibility requirements. The MISSION Act and the new Veterans Community Care Program is streamlining the process to make it easier for veterans to receive the care they need.
All VCP Agreement officially expired as of June 6, 2019 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.
Improvements Featured in the VCC Program
- Streamlined eligibility criteria– There are six criteria eligible requirements for the VCC program.
- Single community care program– Having a single community care program makes it less complicated for Veterans to find care.
- Improvement of customer service– Total revamp of the internal process, with improved education and communications resources for Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) partners, and VA employees involved in community care operations to handle claims and payment.
- New urgent care benefit– Veterans now have access to immediate care at urgent care clinics and walk-in providers within the VA network, without prior authorization from the VA. It’s just one of the streamline improvements VCC offers.
What You Should Know About the Original VCP
If you seek information on VCP today, you should definitely learn how the program changes since its creation affect you now.
When VCP was first established, the program had an expiration date. The Department of Veterans Affairs was not the primary coordinator. An April 2017 law changed those things and “removed barriers with sharing necessary health information with community providers.”
Veteran patients can still see their original VCP provider if they have an existing VCP Provider Agreement and participate in the contract network with the VA-approved third-party administrator.
Call your nearest VA medical facility if you have any questions about your current provider.
The process for billing did not change during the transition. Any credit collection questions can be directed to the VA Adverse Credit Helpline at 877-881-7618. For general billing questions, you can call Veterans Services at 866-606-8198.
Choice Card Expiration
The new community care program does not require a choice card. The use of the choice card ended with the sunset date of June 6, 2019.
Beneficiary Travel Benefits Remain Intact
VCP program members will remain eligible to use Beneficiary Travel benefits to and from their appointments as proscribed in the VA rules. The Department of Veterans Affairs Beneficiary Travel program is designed to help veterans pay for mileage and/or “common carrier” travel by plane, bus, taxi, etc. to and from VA healthcare. It also covers “VA authorized non-VA health care for which the Veteran is eligible.”
In general, Beneficiary Travel benefits are offered to those who:
- Have a service-connected rating of 30 percent or more
- Are traveling for treatment of a service-connected medical condition
- Are receiving a VA pension
- Have income which “does not exceed the maximum annual VA pension rate”
- “Are traveling for a scheduled compensation or pension,” according to the VA official site
Getting Prescriptions Filled When Using the Veterans Choice Program
VA rules for VCP include allowing the applicant’s community provider to issue short-term prescriptions for two weeks (14-days) of a “national formulary drug.” These 14-day prescriptions may be filled at any non-VA pharmacy.
The cost of prescriptions may be reimbursed via the Business Office/Non-VA Care Coordination Office at VA facilities. It may take as long as 45 days to process. You will need to provide copies of the original receipt and the original prescription. So be sure to hang on to that paperwork for future claims. The VA official site reminds, “Veterans cannot be reimbursed at the VA Pharmacy.”
For those who need more than a 14-day supply, the VCP rules state that standard procedures should be used to get a prescription at a VA pharmacy.
VCC adopted the same rules for VA prescriptions after the sunset of VCP on June 6, 2019.
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