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SCKMC Approved for VA Health

July 22, 2015

Veterans in the Cowley County area are now able to receive healthcare services closer to home through a partnership with South Central Kansas Medical Center. The Veterans Choice Program is a temporary program to improve access to health care by allowing eligible veterans to use approved health care providers outside of VA.

Arkansas City, KS – Veterans in the Cowley County area are now able to receive healthcare services closer to home through a partnership with South Central Kansas Medical Center. The Veterans Choice Program is a temporary program to improve access to health care by allowing eligible veterans to use approved health care providers outside of VA.

The Veterans Choice Program was created following public outcry against lengthy wait times for healthcare appointments. Section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACCA) required that VA establish the program. 

In  late 2014, VA began mailing all Veterans a Veterans Choice Card. The Choice Card allows Veterans to choose to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program. The Choice Chard doesn’t replace the identification card Veterans already use to access other VA benefits. 

As the choice cards began to arrive locally, area veterans requested that SCKMC partner with the program. One of the individuals seeking the local tie-in was Dustin Schuetz. Schuetz is a veteran, and also a member of the hospital’s Community Advisory Committee. The committee was formed to help share suggestions from the public with members of the medical center’s administrative team.

“The Veterans Choice program will be very helpful to local vets, SCKMC will now be able to service area vets, this will reduce wait times and provide local resources to the surrounding areas” Schuetz said.

The medical center submitted their application to be included as a Veterans Choice provider early in 2015. They received confirmation of acceptance into the program on July 17th.  

“This is a program that we have had interest in, but also that the community had interest in us having an interest in. Our administrative team pushed to get this accomplished, all while working on our many other projects. I’m excited that we are able to partner with the VA, as the Veterans Choice program should be a great benefit to those who served,” said Virgil Watson, SCKMC’s Chief Executive Officer.

According to the VA’s website, to be eligible for the Veteran’s Choice program a 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. Additionally, a veteran must also meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • The Veteran is told by his/her local VA medical facility that he/she will need to wait more than 30 days for an appointment from the date clinically determined by his/her physician or, if no such date is provided, the Veteran’s preferred date.
  • The Veteran’s residence is more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility.
  • The Veteran needs to travel by plane or boat to the VA medical facility closest to his/her home. The Veteran faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, or a medical condition. Staff at the Veteran’s local VA medical facility will work with him/her to determine if he/she is eligible for any of these reasons.
  • The Veteran resides in a State or a United States Territory without a full-service VA medical facility that provides hospital care, emergency services and surgical care having a surgical complexity of standard, and resides more than 20 miles from such a VA facility.

Veterans wanting to use the choice program for local service must receive prior approval from the VA. Care in the community is only covered by VA for medical needs which have been approved by your VA physician. Emergency care is not covered by the Choice program.

Veterans who did not receive, or have lost their Veterans Choice Card may still be eligible to use the program.  They can call the Choice Program Call Center at 866-606-8198 or contact the Choice Champion at their local VA medical facility for more information, to verify eligibility, and make an appointment. Veterans can also visit www.va.gov/opa/choiceact for more information about the program.