Veterans Choice Card — Not a Free Pass

Veterans Have Alternatives for Health Care

Eligible Veterans can now choose between VA or private health care, if wait times are too long or distance is an issue, but that choice has limits.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs takes measures to bolster its medical staff and improve access to care nationwide, it is sending the Veterans Choice Card to each one of about 9 million enrollees.

Who Can Use the Card?

If Veterans live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility, or if they have waited longer than 30 days for medical appointments, they can use the card to get care from non-VA providers, with some restrictions.

About 320,000 cards were mailed Nov 5, 2014 to Veterans with the distance eligibility, and another 370,000 were mailed in late November to those with appointment wait times of more than 30 days. All VA enrollees should receive their cards in the mail by the end of January 2015.


Before using the cards, Veterans should understand the following:

  • Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE are not approved plans under the Veterans Choice Card program. If you use these programs instead of your card, you will be personally liable for any out-of-pocket expenses.
  • You had to enroll in VA health care by August 1, 2014, to be eligible for the Veterans Choice Card.
  • The card is not a free pass for unlimited health care from any provider you choose in the private sector.
  • Before using your card, VA must verify your eligibility and provide advance authorization.
  • To verify your eligibility, call the phone number printed on your Veterans Choice Card. If you are eligible, a VA program manager must authorize in advance each use of private care.
  • You can choose from a network of VA-approved providers, or select your own provider (which VA also has to approve in advance).
  • To be VA-approved, private health care providers must accept Medicare rates or work at Department of Defense facilities, Indian Health Service facilities or other federally qualified health centers.
  • Your private-care practitioner must have a valid medical license to practice.
  • The Veterans Choice Card does not replace your VA identification card. Be sure to keep it.

How Long Does the Program Last?

This program lasts only three years or until funding is exhausted, at which point the cards can no longer be used. VA has signed contracts with two private health-care companies to help administer the Veterans Choice Program:

Tri West and Health Net

Resource for More Help

For help with VA matters, call Bud Lichtenstern/Assistant District 22 Service Officer, American Legion. 619–313-2210.

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