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Pettey WBP, Wagner TH, Rosen AK, Beilstein-Wedel E, Shwartz M, Vanneman ME. Comparing Driving Miles for Department of Veterans Affairs-delivered Versus Department of Veterans Affairs-purchased Cataract Surgery. Medical care. 2021 Jun 1; 59(Suppl 3):S307-S313.
BACKGROUND: The Veterans Choice Act of 2014 increased the number of Veterans eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-purchased care delivered in non-VA community care (CC) facilities. Driving > 40 miles from home to a VA facility is a key eligibility criterion for CC. It remains unclear whether this policy change improved geographical access by reducing drive distance for Veterans. OBJECTIVES: Describe the driving distance for Veterans receiving cataract surgery in VA and CC facilities, and if they visited the closest-to-home facility or if they drove to farther facilities. SUBJECTS: Veterans who had cataract surgery in federal fiscal year 2015. MEASURES: We calculated driving miles to the Closest VA and CC facilities that performed cataract surgeries, and to the location where Veterans received care. RESULTS: A total of 61,746 Veterans received 83,875 cataract surgeries. More than 50% of CC surgeries occurred farther than the Closest CC facility providing cataract surgery (median Closest CC facility 8.7 miles vs. Actual CC facility, 19.7 miles). Most (57%) Veterans receiving cataract surgery at a VA facility used the Closest VA facility (median Closest VA facility 28.1 miles vs. Actual VA facility at 31.2 miles). In all, 26.1% of CC procedures occurred in facilities farther away than the Closest VA facility. CONCLUSIONS: Although many Veterans drove farther than needed to get cataract surgery in CC, this was not true for obtaining care in the VA. Our findings suggest that there may be additional reasons, besides driving distance, that affect whether Veterans choose CC and, if they do, where they seek CC.