Syracuse VA center to launch new care program


SYRACUSE — The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the launch of its “new and improved community care program,” which implements parts of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 (the MISSION Act).

The new program, which formally kicked off on Thursday, ends the Veterans Choice Program and establishes a new Veterans Community Care Program.  

The MISSION Act will strengthen the nationwide VA Health Care System by empowering Veterans to have more options in their health care decisions, according to an announcement by the Syracuse VA center.

Under the new and improved Veterans Community Care Program, veterans can now work with their VA health care provider or other VA staff to see if they are eligible to receive community care. Eligibility for community care does not require a veteran to receive that care in the community — veterans can still choose to have VA provide their care.

Veterans are eligible to choose to receive care in the community if they meet any of the following eligibility criteria:

A veteran needs a service not available at any VA medical facility;

A veteran lives in a state or territory without a full-service VA medical facility;

A veteran qualifies under the “grandfather” provision related to distance eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program; and

VA cannot furnish care in a manner that complies within certain designated access standards. The specific access standards are described below. (Important: Access standards are proposed and not yet final.) 

Average drive time to a specific VA medical facility

30-minute average drive time for primary care, mental health and noninstitutional extended care services.

60-minute average drive time for specialty care.

Note: Average drive times are calculated by VA using geo-mapping software.

Appointment wait time at a specific VA medical facility

20 days for primary care, mental health care and noninstitutional extended care services, unless the Veteran agrees to a later date in consultation with his or her 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 his or her VA health care provider.

A final condition is that the veteran and the referring clinician agree it is in the best medical interest of the veteran to receive community care based on defined factors.

“We are honored to reaffirm our commitment to America’s Veterans,” said Syracuse VA Medical Center Director Dr. Judy Hayman. “Our staff is steadfast in providing health care that meets the needs of our Veterans at the right time and place.”


Strengthens VA’s ability to recruit and retain clinicians.

Statutorily authorizes “Anywhere to Anywhere” telehealth provision across state lines.

Empowers Veterans with increased access to community care.

Establishes a new, urgent-care benefit that eligible Veterans can access in the community.

The Syracuse VA serves approximately 53,000 Veterans in a 13-county area of New York every year, including Oneida and Madison counties.

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