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Published on May 28, 2016

St. Vincent's Clay County now part of federal Veterans Choice Program

By Teresa Stepzinski, Clay Sun

Military veterans in Clay County and neighboring areas now have an opportunity to receive care at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Clay County in Middleburg.

St. Vincent’s HealthCare is participating in a partnership to provide care through the federal Veterans Choice Program at all of its facilities in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, according to Kyle Sieg, spokesman for St. Vincent’s HealthCare.

The health care system joins 23 other states and the District of Columbia by serving as an official provider of medical care to veterans outside of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Now, qualified veterans facing wait times exceeding 30 days at Veterans Affairs health care facilities or who have to travel more than 40 miles from their home can receive care from St. Vincent’s doctors at more than 50 sites of care across the region.

“St. Vincent’s has a long history of caring for those who serve and defend the freedoms we’re so blessed to enjoy. The Daughters of Charity took care of soldiers during the Spanish American War by staffing a field hospital near Hogan’s Creek in 1888. Then around 1940, the Navy asked St. Vincent’s to train physicians at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. It is truly our privilege to serve those who so courageously serve us,” said Tom VanOsdol, chief operating officer of Clinically Integrated Systems of Care for St. Vincent’s in Northeast Florida.

Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the nation — at least 1.5 million throughout the state, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. About 140,000 veterans live in Northeast Florida, U.S. Census Bureau data show.

Clay County is home to at least 28,000 veterans, county officials say.

Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park also participates in the Veterans Choice Program. It completed credentialing at the beginning of May, said David Goldberg, a hospital spokesman.

The federal Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 established funding to pay for health care services provided to veterans by private healthcare providers. As a result of the partnership, St. Vincent’s doctors and its other caregivers are authorized to authorized to provide primary care, inpatient and outpatient specialty care, and mental health services for eligible veterans outside of the Veterans Affairs facilities.

“The Veterans Choice program fits perfectly with our mission to provide personalized, compassionate care to those who are struggling the most,” said Huson Gilberstadt, a physician and chief clinical officer of St. Vincent’s HealthCare in the Northeast Florida. “Our goal is to meet people where they are, at any stage of their life, and we are thrilled to be able to improve access for our local veterans.”

About nine million veterans nationwide received the Veteran’s Choice Card. Use of the card is voluntary. Veterans who qualify for Veterans Affairs health care can continue to receive care at a Veterans Affairs medical facility as they have in the past.

The Veterans Choice Program is slated to end when the allocated funds of $10 billion are used, or no later than August 7, 2017.

To determine whether they’re eligible for the program, veterans can go to its website at or call toll-free (866) 606-8198.

St. Vincent’s is part of Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health care system and the world’s largest Catholic health system. Veterans, St. Vincent’s patients and care-givers can find more information about the program at

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