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The Veterans Administration launched a new program this week designed to provide additional health options for military veterans.

Beginning June 6, the VA’s Veterans Community Care Program goes into effect as part of the Mission Act passed by Congress last year and signed by President Donald Trump.

It replaces the Veterans Choice program, and Tomah VA medical center director Victoria Brahm said it will give veterans more options in their healthcare decisions.

Brahm said the program streamlines the process for veterans who receive care outside the VA system, especially those who live 30 to 60 minutes from a VA facility.

“This is an effort to provide veterans with as timely and accessible care as possible,” she said.

“It strengthens partnerships in the community and opens up options for veterans.”

Brahm said the Mission Act isn’t designed to shift VA care to private providers.

“This isn’t an effort to privatize or send our veterans away,” Brahm said. “This is for veterans that may ... need care closer to their own home or a service we may not be able to provide quickly or provide at all at certain VAs.”

Brahm said the program establishes a new urgent care benefit veterans can access at community hospitals that participate. She said veterans will not need prior authorization to visit a non-VA urgent care center that’s in network.

However, Brahm said it’s unclear how many hospitals have signed up as in-network providers within the VA’s Tomah and Madison coverage areas. She said a list of participating hospitals should be available later this week.

The community care program also allows the VA to offer new incentives to recruit and retain clinicians and expands telehealth options.

Brahm believes most veterans will continue using the VA.

“We hope veterans don’t leave the VA because we believe we give great care,” she said. “If we can’t do it, we will find a way for them to get it. This is a monumental change and a step forward for veterans.”

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Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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