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Veterans Health 101: Accessing VA Care in the Community

October 1, 2023

For many veterans, navigating the intricacies of healthcare can feel daunting, especially when seeking specialized care tailored to their unique experiences. With the combined strength of national and community resources, VA care in the community aims to make the healthcare journey smoother and more accessible for those who've served.

If you're a veteran, their loved one, or someone wanting to understand the VA care landscape better, this guide offers a compassionate look into the dedicated resources available. Let's navigate this path together, ensuring our veterans receive the same dedication and care they provided us.

Program Contact1-877-222-8387
Additional InfoVA Health Care Facility Locator
Managing AgencyU.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Overview of the VA Care in the Community

The VA Care in the Community (VA CC) program stands as a beacon of support for our nation's honored veterans, offering an extended arm of healthcare support beyond the traditional VA facilities. The program collaborates with community healthcare providers to ensure veterans receive the care they require, even when a VA facility cannot provide it. Eligibility for VA CC is meticulously crafted, taking into account the availability of VA-specific care and the nuanced needs and circumstances of each veteran.

Mission And Goals of the VA CC Program

While VA facilities are designed to address a broad range of healthcare needs for veterans, there are times and circumstances when care outside the VA becomes essential. The purpose of the VA CC program is to ensure that no veteran goes without the care they require, regardless of location, specific needs, or VA facility capabilities.

  • Accessibility: The VA CC initiative ensures every veteran has access to medical care, especially in regions where VA facilities might be distant or unavailable. The program also aims to offer care in a timely manner, reducing wait times for treatments and services.

  • Quality of Care: This program collaborates with trusted community healthcare providers to maintain the VA's high standards of care. It aims to monitor and ensure that the care veterans receive from community providers aligns with the VA's expectations.

  • Flexibility: The VA CC program recognizes the diverse needs of veterans, from standard medical care to specialized treatments, and ensures they are met even outside the traditional VA system.

  • Cost Efficiency: It provides care in a manner that is cost-effective for both the veteran and the VA system and streamlines the process for veterans to receive care in the community, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and costs.

  • Strengthen Partnerships: The initiative builds and nurtures partnerships with community healthcare providers while fostering an environment of mutual understanding and collaboration to enhance care options for veterans.

Medical Services and Benefits Offered by the VA CC

The services offered through this program vary based on individual needs, VA facility capabilities, and partnerships with community providers. Here are some of the key medical services that veterans can access through the VA CC program:

  1. Primary Care: Routine check-ups, vaccinations, and general health screenings to monitor and maintain overall health.

  2. Specialty Care: Specialized medical services in areas such as cardiology, neurology, dermatology, and more.

  3. Mental Health Services: Therapy, counseling, and treatment for conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other health issues that require mental health compensation.

  4. Hospital-based Services: Inpatient care for medical conditions that require hospitalization, surgeries, or specialized treatments.

  5. Emergency Care: Immediate medical attention for urgent and life-threatening conditions in community hospitals.

  6. Diagnostic Services: Radiology, MRI, CT scans, blood tests, and other diagnostic procedures to detect and monitor health conditions.

  7. Rehabilitation Services: Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other rehabilitative care to assist veterans in regaining functionality and quality of life.

  8. Long-term Care: Services designed for veterans with chronic illnesses or disabilities that need sustained medical attention or assistance.

  9. Preventative Care: Immunizations, health screenings, and educational resources to prevent illnesses and promote health.

  10. Extended Care: Nursing homes, respite care, adult day health care, and palliative care services for veterans requiring prolonged care.

  11. Alternative Therapies: Treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic care, and other therapeutic services are not commonly available at every VA facility.

  12. Pharmacy: Prescription drugs, medication therapies, and counseling about medication use and safety.

  13. Vision and Hearing Services: Eye examinations, treatments for vision-related issues, hearing tests, and hearing aid fittings.

  14. Dental Care: Depending on eligibility, veterans can access dental check-ups, treatments, and surgeries.

It's worth noting that while the VA CC program covers a broad range of services, not all services might be available to all veterans under the program. Availability often depends on individual eligibility, specific medical needs, and the partnerships the VA has with local community providers.

Determining Eligibility for the VA Care in the Community Program

If you’re planning to apply for VA Care, you must first meet the requirements set forth by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Enrollment in VA Healthcare

To be eligible for VA Community Care, you typically need to be enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Enrollment is generally based on factors like your military service, income, and disability status.

Clinical Necessity

You may be eligible for community care if your VA healthcare provider determines that you require specific medical services that are not available at your local VA medical facility, or if receiving care within the VA system would cause an undue burden, such as excessive travel time.


Eligibility might also be based on the distance you must travel to your nearest VA medical facility. If you live more than a certain distance from a VA facility or face significant travel obstacles, you may be eligible for community care.

Access Standards

The VA has established access standards for certain types of care. If the VA cannot provide care within a certain timeframe or meet specific clinical guidelines, you may be eligible for community care.

Special Eligibility

Certain veterans with special circumstances, such as those who are eligible under the MISSION Act of 2018 or who are part of specific programs (e.g., caregiver support programs), may have different eligibility criteria.

Specific Authorization

In some cases, you may need specific authorization from the VA to receive care in the community. This could include pre-approval for procedures or consultations with non-VA providers. Here are some considerations to remember:

  • Timely Authorization: Ensure that you have the necessary authorization before receiving care. Without prior authorization, the VA might not cover the costs, potentially leaving you responsible for the bills.

  • Limitations: The authorization will specify the type of care, the number of visits, and the duration for which the authorization is valid. It's essential to stick to these parameters.

  • Billing Concerns: If you receive any bills from the community provider, it's advised to contact your local VA medical facility or the VA billing department for guidance.

  • Changes or Delays: If there are any changes in your condition or if you face issues in getting the care you need, promptly inform your VA provider or care coordinator.

It's crucial to keep in mind that eligibility for the VA Care in the Community Program is subject to change and may vary based on your individual circumstances. 

Applying for the VA CC Program

After determining your eligibility, here’s a step-by-step guide to applying for the VA Care in the Community program:

  1. Consult Your VA Healthcare Provider: Discuss your healthcare needs with your VA healthcare provider. They will evaluate your specific situation and determine if community care is necessary.

  2. Request a Consultation or Referral: If your VA healthcare provider believes that community care is appropriate, they will initiate the process by either referring you to a community provider or requesting a consultation with a non-VA specialist.

  3. Authorization and Coordination: Once the need for community care is established, the VA will work on authorizing the specific services you require and coordinating with a community provider.

  4. Choose a Community Provider: In some cases, you may be given the option to choose a community provider from a list of approved providers. If you have a preference, discuss it with your VA healthcare provider.

  5. Receive Care: Once authorized, you can receive the necessary healthcare services from the community provider. Ensure you follow all instructions provided by the VA and the community provider.

  6. Billing and Payment: The VA will handle billing and payment for authorized community care services. You should not be responsible for paying for covered services out of pocket.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the VA Community Care Program?

The VA Community Care Program, also known as the Veterans Community Care Program, is a program that allows eligible veterans to receive healthcare services from community (non-VA) providers when specific criteria are met.

2. Who is eligible for the VA Community Care Program?

Eligibility criteria can vary, but it generally includes veterans enrolled in VA healthcare, those with clinical necessity for community care, those living a certain distance from a VA facility, and those meeting specific access standards. Eligibility may also be based on individual circumstances and specific programs.

3. How do I apply for the VA Community Care Program?

To apply for community care, you should start by discussing your healthcare needs with your VA healthcare provider. They will determine if community care is necessary and initiate the process. Authorization and coordination are typically handled by the VA.

4. Can I choose my own community provider?

In some cases, you may have the option to choose a community provider from a list of approved providers. Consult with your VA healthcare provider to see if this option is available to you.

5. How are community care services paid for?

The VA will handle billing and payment for authorized community care services. Veterans should not be responsible for paying for covered services out of pocket.

Find More Resources and Support For Veterans

The VA Care in the Community (VA CC) program serves as a testament to the VA's commitment to ensuring veterans receive timely and quality care, regardless of where they reside or the specificities of their medical needs.

While the VA Care in the Community program provides invaluable medical support, the commitment to our veterans doesn't stop there. For those facing housing challenges, the Homeless Veterans Assistance Program is here to help. Explore more resources and access essential support for our honored heroes!

Michael Blair contributes his expertise to help veterans access government benefits and resources. Through his informative articles and guides, he plays a vital role in empowering veterans and improving their quality of life.
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