The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers urgent care services to eligible veterans at VA medical centers or network urgent care clinics. With the VA urgent care benefit, veterans can receive treatment for minor illnesses or injuries that are not life-threatening, such as strep throat, conjunctivitis, or influenza. Tricare insurance is accepted at VA walk-in clinics, and the VA must fill prescriptions for routine care. However, there are certain exclusions and co-pay requirements that veterans should be aware of.
If you are a veteran considering using the VA urgent care benefit, it is important to understand the eligibility requirements and what services are covered. The VA Mission Act states that eligible veterans must be provided with hospital care, medical services, and long-term care services, even if the VA does not offer the care or services that a veteran needs under certain circumstances. Always consider talking to or seeing your primary care provider (PCP) if you are concerned that the urgent care provider may not understand the complexities of your medical history or medications. In cases where an uncontracted pharmacy is used, the veteran must pay out of pocket and file a request for reimbursement at a local VA medical center. You may need to make a co-pay for emergency care services authorized by the VA, and that co-pay may differ from other copay requirements you may have required under the VA's health care system.
In addition, visits just to get a flu shot “do not count as visits for the number of visits in a calendar year for eligible veterans in priority groups 1 to 6” according to the VA. The Virginia Health Resource Center offers assistance for questions about the co-payment of urgent care at 1-877-222-VETS (838). Remember that if you have a medical condition that isn't well understood or that may be difficult to explain to a new healthcare provider, it may be best to talk to your primary care provider about treatment first. The official VA website instructs veterans to check with their local VA medical center to see if they are eligible to receive these services and how much the VA pays for them. Eligible veterans can go to a network provider to treat “non-emergent symptoms” of conditions such as the flu, minor injuries, such as sprained ankles or wrists, bruises, skin irritation, injuries that require splints or casts, ear pain, painful urination, or related problems.