The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is set to launch its new and improved community care program June 6.

The rollout implements portions of the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks — MISSION — Act of 2018, which ends the Veterans Choice Program and establishes the new Veterans Community Care Program.

The act serves to strengthen the nationwide VA Health Care System by empowering veterans to have more options in their health care decisions.

Under the new veterans Community Care Program, veterans can work with their VA health care provider or other VA staff to see if they are eligible to receive community care. Eligibility for community care does not require a veteran to receive that care in the community; veterans can choose to have VA provide their care. Veterans are eligible to choose to receive care in the community if they meet any of the six eligibility criteria:

— A veteran needs a service not available at any VA medical facility.

— A veteran lives in a U.S. state or territory without a full-service VA medical facility. Specifically, this would apply to veterans living in Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire and U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands.

— A veteran qualifies under the “grandfather” provision related to distance eligibility for the veterans Choice Program.

— VA cannot furnish care in a manner that complies within certain designated access standards. Specific access standards include A 30-minute average drive time for primary care, mental health and noninstitutional extended care services and a 60-minute average drive time for specialty care. Appointment wait time should be 20 days for primary care, mental health care and noninstitutional extended care services, unless the veteran agrees to a later date in consultation with his or her VA health care provider; and 28 days for specialty care from the date of request, unless the veteran agrees to a later date in consultation with his or her VA health care provider.

— The veteran and the referring clinician agree it is in the best medical interest of the veteran to receive community care based on defined factors.

— VA has determined that a VA medical service line is not providing care in a manner that complies with VA’s standards for quality.

To help employees prepare for this transformation and others under the act, the Wilmington VA Medical Center and its outpatient clinics are dedicating May to readiness.

The VA MISSION Act of 2018 dtrengthens VA’s ability to recruit and retain clinicians; statutorily authorizes “Anywhere to Anywhere” telehealth provision across state lines; empowers Veterans with increased access to community care; and establishes a new, urgent-care benefit that eligible veterans can access in the community.

Annually, Wilmington VA Medical Center and its community-based outpatient clinics serve about 31,000 veterans in Delaware and southern New Jersey.