VA healthcare benefits are now accepted at some urgent care centers under a new program. US Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Brooks Tucker was in downtown Bakersfield Thursday for the launch of the Convenient Care Initiative, which lets VA nurses refer patients for minor illnesses and wounds. He says they’re trying to “squeeze a lot of the inefficiencies out so that maybe those one-off issues are…not something that happens over and over again.” Tucker says the VA wants to avoid another situation like Phoenix, where dozens of veterans died waiting for care in 2014.

Kelli Pierce/Suzanne Grant