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.
Many 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 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.