The VA is always available to veterans for medical care. However, what happens if the VA is too crowded, appointments are too spaced out, or the VA is too far away from where the veteran lives? Depending on the veteran’s health care plan, they don't always have to go to the VA for their health care.
Let’s talk about where veterans can go for medical care.
What Hospitals are Veterans Allowed to go to?
- During an emergency. In the case of an emergency, a veteran does not have to contact the VA before calling an ambulance. The VA can pay for emergency medical care, whether it's a service-connected condition or not. If you have an emergency, don't be afraid to call the ambulance.
- For primary care. If the veteran doesn’t have their own private insurance, then it is required to visit the VA. Plenty of veterans pay for private insurance because it can take a very long time to get seen at the VA. In fact, average wait times for initial visits can be as long as four months, and some veterans die while waiting for care.
- For specialty care. For specialty care, veterans are allowed to see private doctors at the VA’s expense if they have to wait longer than 28 days for an appointment at the VA or drive more than an hour one direction to see a VA health care provider.
If you're a veteran with full benefits, you're going to want to use the system because the VA Hospital specializes in veteran health care. However, if you're concerned about getting seen in a timely manner or you're not a veteran with full benefits, it may be more reasonable to have private insurance instead. If you are covered by the VA, you can see specialty care doctors outside of the VA, and in the case of emergencies, you can always call the ambulance and go to the ER.