VA increases access to health care for thousands of veterans through nationwide Access Sprints

VA increases access to health care for thousands of veterans through nationwide Access Sprints

Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it has made it easier and faster for veterans to access VA health care nationwide through VA’s Access Sprints — an initiative to expand access to care by offering night and weekend clinics, increasing the number of veterans scheduled into daily clinic schedules, and more.

As a result of these sprints, VA saw approximately 25,000 more new patients from October 2023 to February 2024 compared to the same period last year – and new patient appointments increased by 11%. Additionally:

·        81% of VA medical centers saw more new patients than the same period last year

·        12% fewer new patients are waiting more than 20 or 28 days for an appointment

·        14% fewer new patients are waiting for appointments with a community provider due to wait time eligibility

Veterans who receive VA health care have better health outcomes than non-enrolled veterans, and VA hospitals have dramatically outperformed non-VA hospitals in overall quality ratings and patient satisfaction ratings. Additionally, VA health care is often more affordable than non-VA health care for Veterans.

“Our mission is to provide world-class health care to our nation’s heroes. When a veteran comes to VA, we must be able to give them the care they deserve, whenever and wherever they need it,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D. “I am so proud of our workforce for finding new ways to open VA’s doors wider — and I’m excited to use what we learned from the Access Sprints to make sure that veterans have access to VA care at every turn.”

VA is currently delivering more care and more benefits to more veterans than ever before in our nation’s history, setting an all-time record for health care appointments provided in 2023.

VA is undertaking this effort at a time when we are also expanding health care eligibility for millions of veterans nationwide under the PACT Act. As of March 5, all veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military and meet certain requirements became eligible to enroll directly in VA health care beginning March 5, 2024. This means that all veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 will be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits. Additionally, veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty in the United States will also be eligible to enroll.

This increase in access is part of a nationwide VA Access Sprint to benefit all veterans who are eligible for VA care. Local VA facilities and regional networks spent several months designing and implementing locally driven innovations and tried-and-true practices. As part of VA’s ongoing strategy of multiple, large-scale initiatives aimed at the goal of providing the soonest and best care to veterans, their focus was to improve timeliness, efficiency, capacity, and employee experience. 

This expansion of care is made possible, in part, by last year’s record hiring in VA’s Veterans Health Administration. Last year, VA exceeded its hiring goals in the Veterans Health Administration – growing at the fastest rate in 15 years and bringing in more than 61,000 new hires – to prepare for an increase in VA health care enrollment among veterans under the PACT Act. In total, VHA now has more employees than ever before in VA history, and VA’s retention efforts also led to a 20% decrease in turnover rate among VHA employees from 2022 to 2023.

For more information about VA care, visit VA’s health care website.