Veterans may be eligible for care through a provider in their local community depending on their health care needs or circumstances, and if they meet specific eligibility criteria. Even if a Veteran is eligible for community care, they generally still have the option to receive care from a VA medical facility.
In most cases, Veterans must receive approval from VA before receiving care from a community provider to avoid being billed for the care. VA staff members generally make all eligibility determinations for community care.
On this page:
A Veteran’s eligibility for community care depends on his/her individual health care needs or circumstances. Please note the following about eligibility for community care:
- Veterans must receive approval from VA prior to obtaining care from a community provider, in most circumstances.
- Veterans must either be enrolled in VA health care or be eligible for VA care without needing to enroll to be eligible for community care.
- Eligibility for community care will continue to be dependent upon a Veteran’s individual health care needs or circumstances.
- VA staff members generally make all eligibility determinations.
There are six criteria that can qualify a Veteran to receive community care. Veterans only need to meet one of these to be eligible.
1. Veteran needs a service not available at a VA medical facility
In this situation, a Veteran needs a specific type of care or service that VA does not provide in-house at any of its medical facilities.
For example, if you are a female Veteran and need maternity care, you would be eligible for community care because VA does not provide maternity care in any of its medical facilities.
2. Veteran lives in a U.S. state or territory without a full-service VA medical facility
In this scenario, a Veteran lives in a U.S. state or territory that does not have a full-service VA medical facility. Specifically, this applies to Veterans living in:
- U.S. States: Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire
- U.S. Territories: Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands
For instance, if you are a Veteran living in Guam, you would be eligible for community care because you reside in a state or territory without a full-service VA medical facility.
3. Veteran qualifies under the “Grandfather” provision related to distance eligibility for VCP
For this element, there are a few different ways that a Veteran could be eligible for community care. Initially, there are two requirements that must be met in every case:
- Veteran was eligible under the 40-mile criterion under the Veterans Choice Program on the day before the VA MISSION Act was enacted into law (June 6, 2018), and
- Veteran continues to reside in a location that would qualify them under that criterion.
If both of these requirements have been met, a Veteran may be eligible if one of the following is also true:
- Veteran lives in one of the five states with the lowest population density from the 2010 Census:
North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, and Wyoming.
4. VA cannot provide care within certain designated access standards
In this situation, VA is unable to schedule an appointment that is within both average driving time standards and wait time standards. For average drive time to a specific VA medical facility, the access standards are:
- 30-minute average drive time for primary care, mental health, and non-institutional extended care services (including adult day health care)
- 60-minute average drive time for specialty care
For appointment wait times at a specific VA medical facility, the access standards are:
- 20 days for primary care, mental health care, and non-institutional extended care services, unless the Veteran agrees to a later date in consultation with their VA health care provider
- 28 days for specialty care from the date of request, unless the Veteran agrees to a later date in consultation with their VA health care provider
For instance, if you are a Veteran and live 10 miles from the nearest VA primary care provider, but it takes you over an hour to drive there on average due to heavy traffic, you would be eligible for community care.
5. It is in the Veteran’s best medical interest
In this situation, a Veteran may be referred to a community provider when the Veteran and the referring clinician agree that it is in the best medical interest to see a community provider.
For example, if you are a Veteran with a certain type of ovarian cancer that your VA oncologist is not experienced in treating, and you live close to a community medical facility where there is a specialist for that type of cancer, you could be eligible for community care if the clinician and patient agree that this treatment should be provided by the community medical facility.
6. A VA Service Line Does Not Meet Certain Quality Standards
In this scenario, if VA has identified a medical service line is not meeting VA’s standards for quality based on specific conditions, Veterans can elect to receive care from a community provider under certain limitations.
For example, if VA has identified that the cardiology service line at a local VA medical facility is not providing care that meets VA’s standards for quality, the Veteran may be able to elect to receive your cardiology care in the community. However, there may be limits on when, where, and what is available under this criterion. For additional information and frequently asked questions (FAQs), refer to the Veteran Community Care – Eligibility fact sheet
Veterans eligible for community care generally have the option of choosing to receive care from a VA medical facility or community provider. For Veterans who choose to receive community care, a VA staff member will discuss with them their preferences for getting care from a community provider.
Finding a Community Provider
Veterans can either choose their preferred community provider or a VA staff member can help select one. The selected community provider must be part of VA’s network.
Click on the infographic to view the full PDF document.
To find a community provider, please use the VA Facility Locator.
If there is a specific community provider a Veteran would like to see that is not in VA’s network, VA may be able to add them to its network. In some cases, a VA staff member will work with the Veteran to find other options when:
- A community provider cannot be found that meets the Veteran's health care needs
- A community provider was, but is no longer part of VA’s network
- An existing community provider is no longer available
Once a community provider is selected, an appointment can be scheduled based on the Veteran's preferences and the community provider’s availability.
Before scheduling an appointment, it is important for the Veteran to confirm with a VA staff member that they are eligible and authorized for community care.
Once authorized to receive community care, they have several options for scheduling an appointment with a community provider, depending on the type of care they need. A Veteran may be able to:
- Directly schedule an appointment and inform a VA staff member about the appointment
- Use VA Online Scheduling to request an appointment for certain types of routine services
- Have a VA staff member schedule the appointment
- Have VA's Third Party Administrator (TPA) schedule the appointment
VA will send the Veteran and the selected community provider a referral. VA will also send the Veteran's medical documentation to the community provider to ensure proper care coordination between their VA care team and the community provider.
When a Veteran arrives for the appointment, the community provider should have the appointment, VA referral, and medical documentation on file. If a Veteran needs a follow-up appointment, the community provider should check to make sure VA has authorized additional care before scheduling the appointment.
Prior to undergoing surgery at a community provider facility, Veterans and their family members may access information about the surgeon performing the surgery. Information required to be available includes the surgeon’s education, training, licensure, registration, and certification by the authorizing state and national entity. Additional details can be found in the following fact sheet.
If prescription medication is needed, the prescription should usually be sent to and filled by the nearest VA pharmacy. Veterans can receive short-term prescription medication for a 14-day or fewer supply that can be filled at a non-VA pharmacy. A prescription for more than a 14-day supply must be filled by VA.
Quality and Safety Concerns
Veterans can report concerns about the quality or safety of services received during a community care visit or other issues related to community care services through the Patient Advocate at the nearest VA medical center. Refer to the VA Medical Center Directory to find your local Patient Advocate. The fact sheet below has more information about the process for reporting a quality or safety concern with community care.
After receiving care from a community provider, Veterans may have to pay a copayment for nonservice-connected care, just as the Veteran would if care was received at a VA medical facility. For urgent care, copayments depend on the Veteran's assigned priority group and the number of times the Veteran visits an urgent care provider in a calendar year.
Community providers cannot bill or collect a VA copayment directly from Veterans, including for urgent care. All VA copayments are billed as part of VA’s billing process.
VA may also bill insurance companies for care that is nonservice-connected. More information about VA Veteran copayments and health insurance is available in the links below:Copayments Health Insurance Billing and Payments Financial Hardship
Help with Billing Issues
VA’s Community Care Contact Center can assist Veterans with resolving adverse credit reporting or debt collection actions resulting from authorized VA community care claims. Specially trained call center staff work one-on-one with Veterans to research and resolve collection-specific issues.
Veterans should gather any letters, notices or information regarding debt collection or adverse credit reports related to authorized use of VA community care and call the toll-free number listed below. VA staff will collect the Veteran’s information, investigate the issue and follow up with details of the final resolution, and can answer questions. Veterans will receive an adverse credit history letter that accepts or denies responsibility of the issue, as appropriate.
VA Community Care Contact Center: 877-881-7618, Option 1 (8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Eastern Time)
Veterans are no longer eligible for community care under specific VCP eligibility criteria due to the expiration of the program. Veterans who were eligible for community care under VCP should speak with their VA care team or a VA staff member at their local VA medical facility about their eligibility for community care.
Quality and Safety
- Fact Sheet: Reporting Veteran Concerns with Community Care
Information on reporting concerns regarding the quality or safety of services received during a community care visit or other issues related to community services.
- Article: New eligibility criteria a major improvement over existing rules
Highlights general requirements surrounding community care eligibility and describes the six criteria for eligibility under the VA MISSION Act. (VAntage Point, 04/09/19)
- Fact Sheet: Veteran Community Care–
Describes community care eligibility, examples of how the six criteria will be applied, and FAQs.
Billing and Payments
- Fact Sheet: Billing and Payments
Describes billing, claims, and payment requirements for community care and FAQs.
- Fact Sheet: Adverse Credit Reporting
Provides information about adverse credit reporting and how Veterans can receive assistance dealing with such issues related to their VA healthcare.
Sunset of Choice Program
- Fact Sheet: Sunset of Choice
Describes implications of the end of the Veterans Choice Program and FAQs.
For more information, please contact your local VA medical facility.