For decades, veterans were only covered for physical and mental health services at Veteran Affair clinics, until a new Mission Act was signed by President Donald Trump.

“So now we can hire providers in other cities and they can provide care to our veterans or mental health service line,” said Dr. Shawkat Dhanani, Chief of Staff at West Texas VA. 

Veteran’s like Vittoria Meija, who live in smaller cities like Big Spring with limited options, are especially grateful for this change.

“We don’t have a 24 hour facility unlike Amarillo or a bigger city like El Paso Dallas or Houston so as long as we get urgent care clinics and even bigger ER's and hospitals to sign off on it to be our partners in the community, it would open the doors for us veterans who are seeking care from the community,” said Meija.

The biggest changes taking effect now deal with wait times and urgent care visits.

“If we can not provide care in certain days they will be eligible for care in the community. If they have to drive more than certain time rather than miles then they will be eligible for care in the community,” said Dr. Dhanani.

Here's the breakdown- veterans are eligible to receive care from non-VA clinics if..

  • If they have to wait more than 20 days for primary care or mental health care or more than 28 days for specialty care at a VA clinic.. 

or

  • if they are more than 30 minutes from a primary care or mental health care center or more than an hour from a specialty care facility.

"You know God forbid something does happen to me, I live in Big Spring. So the closest hospital to me is down the street. Without this act, if I were to go into a hospital with no notification, I would be faced with hundreds and thousands of dollars in medical bills,” said Meija. 

The VA has vowed to help local health systems implement these new laws in place. 

The act isn't about moving veterans out of VA clinics, it's about making sure they have care in a timely manner.