In a previous post we outlined several caregiving benefits for veterans but one resource that was not discussed was the Veterans Choice Program (VCP). The VCP provides primary and other health care options for eligible veterans outside of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities which can often times be far away from where the veteran lives. Unfortunately, even though the program has a lot to offer, it can be confusing due to process, payment, and coordination issues. Despite these challenges, it is important for veterans and Caregivers of veterans to understand what the VCP is, who is eligible and where to find participating providers.
What is the Veterans Choice Program?
Congress enacted the Veterans Choice Program in 2014 to decrease wait times by allowing veterans to visit a primary care physician in their community outside the VA health system. This change was meant to expand the available options to reduce the wait time for high-quality care but has garnered a lot of negative press for creating “more confusion and aggravation rather than improving the process of clinical care” (source).
Who is Eligible for the Veteran’s Choice Program
The VA has explicit requirements to determine who is eligible. To be eligible for the VCP, the veteran must:
- Have been enrolled in VA health care on or before August 1, 2014 (or be eligible to enroll as a recently discharged combat veteran)
- Meet at least (1) of the following:
- You are told by your local VA medical facility that you will need to wait more than 30 days for an appointment from the date clinically determined by your physician, or, if no such date is provided, our preferred date.
- Your residence is more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility.
- You need to travel by plane or boat to the VA medical facility closest to your home.
- You face an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, or a medical condition.
- You reside in a State or a United States Territory without a full-service VA medical facility that provides hospital care, emergency services and surgical care, and reside more than 20 miles from such a VA medical facility.
- Source ( of Veterans Affairs)
How Do I Find Participating Providers of the Veterans Choice Program?
The first thing you need to do is contact the VCP call center at 866-606-8198 (managed by Health Net Federal Services, LLC). When you contact the VCP you will be able to discuss your eligibility. Once you have determined if you are eligible you can then determine if the VA will cover the cost of your health care and you will be able to schedule your first appointment. You should note that the Choice Program does not impact existing VA health care or any other VA benefit. You can find a list of providers available by clicking here and entering your or your loved one’s address, but you must schedule your appointment via the call center.
If you are a veteran, or a caregiver for a veteran, make sure to research all available benefit options and resources available, including the Veteran’s Choice Program, to find the best care available to meet your needs. Keep in mind that eligibility requirements do change periodically for existing VA programs.