VA community care progress report: VA and Congress collaborate to push initiatives forward


As many of you have probably heard, we have been working hard to make immediate improvements to the experience of Veterans, community providers and VA staff when accessing community care. Just recently, we modified the Veterans Choice Program contract to eliminate some of the unnecessary administrative burdens placed on community providers that often delayed timely payments.

We’ve also launched an effort to help Veterans experiencing adverse credit reporting or debt collection resulting from inappropriately billed Choice Program claims. (Veterans experiencing these problems can call 1- 877-881-7618 for assistance.) While we have made some improvements, we know that there is still a lot of work to be done.

VA Community CareMany of the enhancements we want to make to community care require Congressional action and additional resources. VA leaders have been meeting with members of Congress and their staff regularly over the past few months to discuss the legislative actions needed to give VA the authority to make these improvements.

We have pushed hard to make sure changes with the greatest impact on Veterans, our employees and community providers are included in any legislation coming out of Congress. Areas of critical importance to VA are included in some of the legislation that has been introduced in Congress, including:

  • Ability to use provider agreements to increase access, especially in smaller and more rural communities
  • Flexibility to use Choice Program funds to increase access to community care
  • Making VA the primary payer in the Choice Program to reduce confusion among Veterans and community providers
  • Allowing VA to obligate funds at the time the claim is received
  • Consolidating community care programs into one program with a single set of eligibility criteria

Our goal is to deliver a program that is easy to understand, simple to administer, and meets the needs of Veterans, community providers, and VA staff. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to work closely with members and participate in briefings and hearings to advance these priorities.

Thank you for all you do for Veterans and be sure to check back for updates.

Dr Baligh YehiaDr. Baligh Yehia is the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care at the Veterans Health Administration. He leads VA’s efforts to develop and operate a high-performing network of federal, academic and community providers focused on delivering care to Veterans. He oversees activities related to improving access to community care, developing and enhancing partnerships with non-VA providers, supporting care coordination and increasing operational effectiveness for purchased care. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Yehia served as Senior Advisor on Health to the Secretary, where he provided leadership on strategies related to the health and well being of Veterans.


VAntagePoint Contributor

-- VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you'd like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at


  1. michelle lammers    

    The agencies and organizations that are supposed to be working with the VA to improve processes are making it longer and more difficult to get things fixed. A lot of the VSOs that are supposed to assist vets prepare their claims are doing it incorrectly. One of them is so incompetent that even our local DAV commander refuses to send claims to this individual. My husband is still waiting on backpay from last fall, even though an audit was completed by DFAS in November. Employees and supervisors at the centralized pay center told him although the audit had been completed and was overdue to be paid, they didn’t know how to fix it-even though they are the only ones that can do so. Routine emails to IRIS take months to be answered, even though IRIS still lists response time as 5 business days.These problems add to the VA’s backlog, and wastes billions of dollars and millions of man-hours annually. Someone needs to fix this-it’s been years and it’s only getting worse.

  2. Leslie Pope    

    Why not issue the eligible veterans a card (similar to a medicare card), which would allow them to see their primary care doctor while they are sick, not 7 to 10 waiting for Veterans Choice to set up an appointment for them. You have too many people hired to do a job that most don’t have a clue as to what they are doing, certainly not helping the veterans. If their primary care doctor finds they need to see a specialist, let them send to whatever doctor they need and not have to go through all kinds of approval waiting time. Money is being wasted on these employees that could be put to better use for the veterans.Another problem is having to call the program every 2 months to stay in the program.. It’s outrageous. My Dad is 88 years young and has many health issues which requires him to see several specialists at through the V.A. Health Program. It’s never easy getting appointments, not just the waiting time, just getting someone on the phone is an issue. He lives in a very rural area, which is 88 miles south of Atlanta. That means a full day on 3 different interstates just to get him to the V.A. doctors. My sister and myself have a 2.5 hr. drive to get to his home and then an additional 2 hour drive on to Atlanta.His doctors, and myself know it isn’t safe for him (or others) to be driving on the interstates Please get this program worked out so that my Dads later years in life are made a little simpler rather than a stressful time. Just let him see his primary care doctor which they have assigned to him ,13 miles from his home, instead of having to make the 176 mile round trip to Atlanta!! Thanks for reading my rant, sincerely, Leslie Pope, 512 Gordon St. , Bremen, GA 30110 My e-mail is,

  3. Charles R Honse    

    I’m currently being seen at VA Loma Linda, Dr (redacted) is my primary care physician and he is located at this location. My Dr works in Infectious Diseases. The VA Loma Linda is the only hospital in my area that has a specilest that I can see. It’s more then a 50 mile drive and under the program, I should be eligible to see a local Dr. that specializes in my condition. But, because I live within 10 miles from a VA clinic in Palm Desert, that I NEVER GO TO, this makes me non-eligible for the CURRENT program. This makes absolutely no sense, because there are no Drs. at that clinic who specialize in Infectious Diseases. There is a Infectious Disease civilian clinic, that is 1/2 mile from my home, that I could easily see, and the appointment would take an 30-45 minuets, instead of the entire day. I really feel that the VA has let us fall through the cracks, because they are not looking at the issues at hand. I have a job, and anytime I have to go the the VA Loma Linda, I’m either have to jump through hoops to make it work with my employer or take a vacation or sick day to go. I have to take a day off work (vacation days up to 3 to 4 times a year) when seeing my PCP at the VA Loma Linda. If I were able to be seen at DAP, that is 1/2 a mile from my home. My life would my simpler, and because I have an infectious disease…I have to be see every 3-4 month. This doesn’t include all the other specialty Drs. that I have to see there for other Heath related issues, because of my infectious disease. I’m not asking for special treatment, but asking that the program work for those of us that are in the same position.

    Charles R Honse

  4. Larry Ray Hilburn    

    All this progress is great but now it takes me ninety two days to get an appointment with my VA primary provider

Comments are closed.