I Really Need Mental Health Services but There Is a Long Wait at the VA, Where Do I Go?

Mental Health, Military and Veterans, SMVF

As a veteran, you are eligible to use your VA benefits to pay for health care, including mental health services. But with understaffing and increased workloads, the wait time can sometimes be very long at VA locations. 

So, is there somewhere else you can go to get mental health help, but still be able to use your benefits?

Veterans Can Use Their VA Benefits for Community Care in Certain Circumstances

For many years, veterans could only utilize their VA benefits to pay for health care received at a VA location, limiting their choices when it came to care. But since 2019, when the VA Mission Act officially became law, veterans have been able to use their benefits outside of the VA system in certain situations. 

Am I Eligible To Use My VA Benefits outside of the VA Healthcare System? 

This law allows veterans to use their VA benefits to cover the costs of health care at community care locations. Community care refers to public, accessible care systems, like the kind we have here in Virginia via our community services boards. 

To be eligible for VA-backed community care, you must meet both of these requirements:

  • You’re enrolled in or are eligible for VA health care, and
  • You have approval from your VA health care team before you get care from a community provider (except for certain cases like urgent or emergency care)

And you must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You need a service that isn’t provided at a VA health facility, or
  • You live in a state or territory that doesn’t have a full-service VA health facility, or
  • You qualified under the 40-mile distance requirement on June 6, 2018, and live in a location that would still make you eligible under these requirements, or
  • Your nearest VA location can’t provide the care you need within their standards for drive and wait times, or
  • You and your VA provider agree that getting care from an in-network community provider is in your best medical interest, or
  • Your nearest VA location can’t provide the service you need in a way that meets their quality standards

If wait times at your nearest VA location are unreasonable, you may qualify for care – but there’s more to it than that. Specifically, the VA says that if they can’t schedule an appointment for you at a VA health facility that’s within a 30-minute average drive from your home or that’s not within the next 20 days, you’ll be eligible to get primary or mental health care from an in-network community provider.

What Kind of Services Can I Get With My VA Benefits at a Public Community Care Organization? 

You can use your VA benefits at a community services board the same way you would use them at a VA location. Community services boards provide behavioral health services. This includes mental health care, care and support for substance abuse, and support for individuals and families living with a developmental or intellectual disorder. 

Mental Health Care for Veterans at Region Five 

Region Five leads the community services board network in the Greater Tidewater Hampton Roads Area of Virginia, but we do more than that. We provide several programs that offer support and education to our local community members. 

Our SMVF (Service Members, Veterans and Family Support) Program offers affordable, accessible support services for our local service members, veterans and their families, including:

Not in the Region Five area? Find your local CSB here to learn more about the available services in your region.

Related: Normalizing Transition Therapy & Support

It’s Easy To Get Mental Health Help for Veterans in Region Five 

If you’re eligible to use your VA benefits for community care, we encourage you to reach out to find what the SMVF Program can do for you. We offer compassionate care specially tailored to veterans. Our team members are made up of veterans from all military branches so there will always be someone who understands your struggles and can help you create a clear path to where you want to go.

Ready to get help now? 

Fill out this short form and someone will contact you within 48 hours to get you connected with the support you’re looking for.

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