Secretary McDonald said this in a recent speech to the DAV:
We are making good progress in getting Veterans off wait lists and fixing scheduling problems. We have reached out to over 240,000 Veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics sooner. In just the last two months, we have made over 791,000 referrals for Veterans to receive their care in the private sector—that’s up more than 164,000 over the same time last year. Each one of these referrals, on average, results in 7 visits or appointments. So, we’re talking about 1.1 million additional appointments in the private sector just from increased referrals over the last two months.
Can you request a non-VA care referral if the wait is over 30 days? Looks like a yes. Or you can opt for the wait list–the real one called the Electronic Waiting List (EWL).
But are you eligible for non-VA care? The VA says it’s “complicated” and vets will be prioritized. If eligible, they’ll get a three-way conference call or if they can’t reach you, they’ll send you a letter, authorization code, appointment time and location. The provider cannot charge vets any co-pays, deductibles or fees–even if the vet is a no-show.
From a June 2014 Fact Sheet
VA has accelerated care for Veterans currently waiting for health care services. VHA is in the process of contacting in excess of 90,000 Veterans during the first phase of VA’s “Accelerating Access to Care Initiative” VHA will provide Veterans who do not currently have an appointment, or are waiting for additional care or services longer than 30 days the option to be rescheduled sooner if VA capacity exists, keep their scheduled appointment, or be referred to non-VA providers in the community.