"This policy should ease the minds of veterans with pharmaceutical needs who have been waiting too long for their first appointment," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "This decision will help these veterans while preserving our ability to serve others."
To be eligible for the new benefit, veterans must meet all of the following conditions:
* Have enrolled in VA health care before July 25, 2003, and
* Requested their first primary care appointment with VA before July 25, 2003, and
* Must be waiting more than 30 days for their first appointment with a primary care physician on Sept. 22, 2003.
The first prescriptions will be filled under the new program on September 22. Eligible veterans will be unable to get prescriptions filled before that date. The period between announcement of the program (July 25) and filling the first prescriptions (Sept. 22) is necessary to allow VA to identify and contact eligible veterans and to put new systems and procedures in place to deliver this benefit.
Principi stressed the policy is a short-term measure to assist veterans who were enrolled and waiting for the appointment before July 25, when details about the new benefit were published in the Federal Register. It will not apply to veterans who are put on the waiting list after July 24. VA estimates that 200,000 veterans will be eligible for the benefit.
"Traditionally, an examination and a prescription – both by a VA physician -- have been required before VA would provide pharmacy benefits to veterans," Principi said. "By improving the process of giving veterans the medication they're seeking, we can enhance their health care treatment and reduce the waiting lists for everyone."
Veterans covered by the new rule will receive information by mail from their nearest VA medical facility about filling prescriptions by mail from non-VA doctors, including information for the doctors themselves.
Principi credited Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) with "playing an important role in launching this new benefit due to their keen interest in improving prescription coverage for veterans." (Source: VA press release of July 24, 2003)
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