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How to get community care referrals and schedule appointments

Before you schedule an appointment with a non-VA provider in our community care network, you must get a referral. Your VA health care team must approve your care. Keep reading on this page to learn how to get community care referrals and schedule appointments.

Follow this process to get care with an in-network community provider

  1. Find an in-network community provider.

    You can search for a provider yourself. Or ask your VA health care team to find a provider for you.

    Ask your VA health care team for help in either of these cases:

    • You can’t find an in-network community provider who meets your needs, or
    • The community provider you want to go to isn’t in our network
  2. Get a referral from your VA health care team.

    Ask your VA health care team for a referral to the community provider.

    We’ll review your request to make sure you’re eligible. Then we’ll contact you to confirm that you want to get community care and the type of appointment you need. We’ll then prepare your referral.

    This part of the process can take up to 14 days.

  3. Schedule your appointment.

    After you have your referral, you can schedule your appointment yourself. Or you can ask your VA health care team to schedule for you.

    If you schedule yourself, tell your VA health care team within 14 days. Your team will put this information in your chart so they can work with your community provider.

  4. Make sure you have your authorization letter.

    After you schedule an appointment, we’ll send you your authorization letter. This letter is your approval for community care.

    Your letter will provide this information:

    • An authorization number
    • Information about your approved in-network community provider
    • A description of the care you can get
    • How long you can continue to get care without needing another referral
  5. Go to your appointment.

    We’ll share your medical records with the community provider. But be sure to bring copies of any images (like CT scans or MRIs) that the provider asks you to bring with you.

  6. Keep track of ongoing appointments and referrals.

    If we approve you for continued care, you can schedule follow-up appointments with the provider. But keep track of how many appointments you go to and how long you’re approved to get care. We won’t cover services that your authorization letter doesn’t include.

    If you need more care, you or your community provider can request a new referral.

    If you have questions about how many appointments you have left, call us at 877-881-7618 (TTY: 711). We’re here Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.

VA benefits

  • Health care

    Apply for VA health care, find out how to access services, and manage your health and benefits online.

Need more help?

  • Health benefits hotline: 877-222-VETS (8387)
  • My HealtheVet help desk:
  • eBenefits technical support:
  • MyVA411 main information line:
  • Telecommunications Relay Services (using TTY) TTY: 711