On the eve of what is likely to be a heated congressional hearing on
The action also comes as Veterans Affairs Secretary
The VA announced Saturday that it would allow veterans to seek care at private clinics and hospitals in areas where the department's capacity to expand is limited.
On Tuesday, the department provided some details of its initiative, announcing, for example, that VA clinics are looking at extending their hours to include nights and weekends.
The VA will make a minimum of three attempts to contact new patients who face waits of 30 days or more for an appointment to see if they can be seen sooner. If patients cannot be seen sooner at a VA facility, they will be offered the option to seek care at a private facility, under the new initiative.
A spokesman for the VA could not immediately say how many patients were waiting 30 days or longer for appointments. VA facilities will review cancellations and available appointments daily at VA facilities to advise veterans on waiting lists of any openings.
"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," says a fact sheet issued by the VA on Tuesday.
Miller last week announced plans to introduce legislation to offer veterans unable to obtain a VA appointment within 30 days the option of seeking private care at the department's expense.
Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sen.
Joseph A. Violante, legislative director of the
He said the VA should "coordinate and manage that care they're getting out in the private sector so that when they do come back into VA, VA knows exactly what care they got out in the private sector."