Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the soft launch of the Convenient Care Initiative in Bakersfield. The pilot program, initiated as part of the Veterans Choice Program, allows veterans receiving their healthcare from the VA to access local walk-in urgent care clinics for minor medical issues if they cannot be seen by a local VA clinic in a timely manner.

Previously, veterans would wait until their local VA clinic could schedule an appointment, travel to Los Angeles for care, or wait indefinite amounts of time until they could be seen by a non-VA healthcare provider through the Choice program. With the pilot program, veterans will be able to fulfill most of their basic healthcare needs without having to leave their local communities, allowing them the option to use walk-in clinics after-hours, on weekends, or if the local VA clinic is booked.

As part of the soft launch, veterans in the Antelope Valley and Bakersfield may receive healthcare benefits at nine newly accessible facilities. As of April 9, 2018, five facilities in Bakersfield and one facility in Lancaster began accepting veteran referrals through this program. Additional non-VA urgent care clinics in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, and Ridgecrest are expected to be integrated for the official launch of the pilot program in the coming weeks.

“In the past, our hometown heroes had to navigate through the worst of Washington’s red tape, often waiting weeks to see a local VA doctor or driving hundreds of miles to the Los Angeles to receive the medical care they earned, only to drive back for something as simple as a sinus infection,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). “Our veterans deserve nothing short of the best, and this program represents a positive step toward giving our men and women who selflessly served the attentive care they deserve at a convenient location close to home.”