VA facilities too far away? A new pilot program allows veterans to use private urgent care instead

Veterans can now access private urgent care clinics if VA facilities are too far away in a pilot program in Antelope Valley
Veterans can now access private urgent care clinics if VA facilities are too far away in a pilot program in Antelope Valley
Photo by Jasleen Kaur via Flickr Creative Commons

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Getting veterans the medical care they need quickly and efficiently has been a political goal in Washington for years.

Last week Congress passed a bill to streamline the VA's community care programs, including Veterans Choice, which lets veterans use private medical care if the VA is too far away or wait times are too long. The VA Mission Act is awaiting President Trump's signature.

A new pilot program that could provide a glimpse into how private clinics may supplement VA care officially rolled out in the Antelope Valley on Thursday.

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The Convenient Care Initiative allows veterans to visit local urgent care clinics for things like cuts, sprains, sore throats, or infections - mostly off hours and on weekends when nearby VA care is unavailable.

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) said he secured the program for Lancaster, Palmdale and Bakersfield because transportation to VA care in metro Los Angeles can be difficult for local vets. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) also spoke at the event at Heritage Sierra Medical Group, one of the participating clinics.

Veterans must to be signed up with the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System and to call a VA triage nurse hotline to get authorized. That number is 877-252-4866.

If there's enough demand, Knight said the Convenient Care Initiative could be expanded to other communities.