One of the new features included with our VA health care is the access to local urgent care treatment centers. This only applies to veterans who are currently enrolled in the VA health care system and have received care from the VA in the past 24 months. This is not to be confused with emergency care for life threatening conditions, since urgent care is, as quoted by the VA, “urgent care providers treat injuries and illnesses that require immediate attention, but are not life-threatening.”

To use this benefit veterans must use a provider who I in the VA’s network. To locate urgent care facilities the VA has developed the VA Urgent Care Locator web tool at vaurgentcarelocator.triwest.com. Just insert your zip code, or use state and VA facility. Currently a 50 mile radius search for 32320 reports one clinic in Crawfordville; a 50 mile radius search from 32322 shows the same clinic in Crawfordville and one in Tallahassee. These tools are being updated as facilities join the network.

The system is designed to work where the veteran finds and goes to the in-network provider, and reports that they are using VA benefits confirmed by the provider. Care is given and the facility does all billing to the VA who will bill the veteran for applicable co-pays. The veteran or the provider can use the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to check eligibility at (833) 483-8669, which will ask for your last four Social Security and date of birth and give an immediate answer (I just tried it).

Remember to use an in-network provider. This is for urgent, not emergency, care which is still seen in emergency rooms. All billing is done to VA, with no payments upfront. If you currently pay a co-pay, you will be charged by VA. Priority groups 1-6 are authorized three visits per calendar year before being charged a co-pay.

This is not to replace our usual care but to enhance it, with care being given when needed without the usual red tape. As always, at your service.

Charles B. Elliott is the veteran service officer for Franklin County. He can be reached at 653-8096, by cellphone at 653-7051, or by email to Veteranservice@franklincountyflorida.com