The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago is one of the first hospitals to allow veterans to schedule audiology and optometry appointments directly without going through their primary care physicians, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs said Monday.

By the end of the year, the VA hopes that all its hospitals will be able to offer direct scheduling, according to a news release.

The VA medical system’s wait-time efficiency has come under national scrutiny in recent months. The VA has said the new program is aimed at saving time for veterans and freeing time for primary care physicians to see patients.

“Valuable Primary Care access was partially being used for routine Audiology and Optometry referrals, while demand for Primary Care services was outgrowing the capacity of the Primary Care clinics,” the news release said.

Under the former system, veterans would have to see their primary care physician to get a referral for an optometrist, said Lina Satele, public affairs officer at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

According to the VA, this new program is intended to make it easier to schedule routine medical appointments and to shorten wait times for veterans needing to see their physicians for more than a referral.

For more information on Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, veterans can contact the Audiology Department at 312-569-6169 or the Optometry Department at 312-569-7501.

The direct scheduling program affirms the medical center’s commitment to its veterans, said Dr. James Brunner, acting chief of staff at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. “We are honored to be a leader in this effort.”