The Department of Veterans Affairs has released new details of an initiative the department announced last week to ensure that veterans are receiving timely care at VA health clinics.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced Saturday that the VA would expand capacity at its clinics where possible and allow more veterans to obtain health care at private health centers if they incur substantial treatment delays.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images).

The VA elaborated on those plans Tuesday, saying it would make at least three attempts to reach veterans who are on a waiting list or scheduled for an appointment more than 30 days out.

The department also said it will try to fit those patients into earlier appointments or else begin the referral process is no sooner slots are available.

“The purpose of the initiative is to strengthen access to care in the VA system, while also ensuring flexibility to use private-sector care when needed in accordance with VA guidelines,” the department said in a Fact Sheet.

VA Fact Sheet.pdf

The move comes amid official investigations of allegations that VA health clinics throughout the nation have manipulated their scheduling records to hide treatment delays that may have affected patients who died while waiting for care.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said last week that he would introduce legislation allowing VA patients to seek treatment at private health clinics if they have waited more than 30 days for an appointment.

The VA last year provided non-VA care to more than 1 million patients at a cost of $4.8 billion, and it has spent $3.4 billion on such care for about 904,000 veterans so far this year, according to the fact sheet.

Vietnam War veterans are looking for answers about the alleged cover-up of a backlog at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix. (Theresa Poulson/The Washington Post)

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