WASHINGTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department says it has reduced wait times for appointments at VA health care facilities by 18 percent since May.

Meanwhile, so-called choice cards began going out this week to thousands of veterans who live at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic allowing them to see local doctors instead. Improved access to outside medical care is a key component of a new law intended to reduce wait times for veterans and fix longstanding problems at the agency.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald revealed the changes Thursday as he prepares to mark 100 days in office — just in time for Veterans Day on Tuesday. McDonald said the VA has taken a series of actions to improve services to veterans, rebuild trust and increase accountability and transparency.