HUNTSVILLE, Ala - A new law went into effect this month that affects veterans across the country. Under the Mission Act, the VA will now cover the cost of going to urgent care.
There are about 350,000 veterans in Alabama according to the latest census information, but there are only three VA medical centers and about 15 outlying clinics across the state.
"Some of our veterans have been coming to the emergency rooms for all of that additional care when they weren't able to get a primary care appointment, or if it was in the middle of the night and they wanted to get check out or something," Birmingham VA Medical Center Director, Stacy Vasquez said.
Vasquez says the VA Health Care System now covers the cost of trips to urgent care.
"I think there's a number of people that it will be closer to their, home and it will be faster, and easier, for them and it will be a better experience," she said.
There are a couple requirements veterans must meet. They must be enrolled in the VA Health Care System and they must have received care through VA from either a VA or community provider within the past 24 months.
The urgent care locations have to be in the tri-west network in order to have the VA cover the cost of the visit. It is very easy to find those locations on the VA website's community care page. Click the button for the urgent care locator, go to find a network urgent care location Then you can enter your address or just the city. In Huntsville, there are 4 in-network urgent care locations in a five-mile radius.
Veterans do need to make sure that when they arrive at these locations, they state they are using their VA urgent care benefit.
If a veteran is experiencing a medical emergency like a broken bone, or uncontrolled bleeding, Vasquez says they still should go to the E.R., not urgent care.