Top VA health care official announces initiatives and progress made

New initiatives chart roadmap to access-to-care improvements


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VA’s top health care official today announced progress and new steps VA is taking to improve Veterans access to health care. Dr. David J. Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health, announced the measures during a briefing to a group of more than 100 journalists attending the Association of Health Care Journalists’ conference April 8 in Cleveland, Ohio.

“We are working to rebuild the trust of the American public and more importantly the trust of the Veterans whom we are proud to serve,” said Dr. Shulkin. “We are taking action and are seeing the results. We are serious about our work to improve access to health care for our nation’s Veterans. We want them to know that this is a new VA.”

During the briefing, Dr Shulkin‎ discussed a new initiative, MyVA Access. MyVA Access represents a major shift for VA by putting Veterans more in control of how they receive their health care. It is a top priority for VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

MyVA Access is a declaration from VHA employees to the Veterans they care for; it is a call to action and the reaffirmation of the core mission to provide quality care to Veterans, and to offer that care as soon as possible to Veterans how and where they desire to receive that care. The initiative ensures that the entire VA health care system is engaged in the transformation of VA into a Veteran-centered service organization, incorporating aspirational goals such as same day access to mental health and primary care services for Veterans when it is medically necessary. At present, 34 VA facilities offer same-day appointments, and as a practicing physician, Dr. Shulkin currently sees Veterans needing same-day appointments at the VA Medical Center in Manhattan. VA is hoping to be able to offer same day appointments when it is medically necessary at all of its medical centers by the end of 2016.

In addition, Dr. Shulkin introduced a new smart phone app called the Veteran Appointment Request App. This app allows Veterans to view, schedule and cancel primary care and mental health appointments as well as track the status of the appointment request and review upcoming appointments. It is currently available in 10 locations and has received positive feedback from the vast majority of Veterans using the app. VA expects to make the app available to all Veterans by early 2017.

Other efforts underway include a website enhancement that will allow Veterans to check wait times in real time where ever they live – this includes new and existing patients and a new, easy-to-use scheduling software program. The new program is being piloted in 10 sites and is expected to reduce scheduling errors and enhance VA’s ability to measure and track supply, demand and usage.

MyVA Access is part of MyVA, introduced in 2014 by VA Secretary Robert McDonald following one of the most challenging times in the history of VA. MyVA is centered around the needs of Veterans by putting them first in everything VA does. Since that time, VA has made significant progress in addition to the new initiatives announced by Dr. Shulkin.

Among the health care progress made:

  • Nationally, VA completed more than 57.36 million appointments from March 1, 2015, through February 29, 2016. This represents an increase of 1.6 million more appointments than were completed during the same time period in 2014/2015.
  • VHA and Choice contractors created over 3 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector from February 1, 2015, through January 31, 2016.  This represents a 12 percent increase in authorizations when compared to the same period in 2014/2015.
  • From FY 2014 to FY 2015, Community Care appointments increased approximately 20 percent from 17.7 million in FY 2014 to 21.3 million in FY 2015.
  • VA completed 96.46 percent of appointments in February 2016 within 30 days of clinically indicated or Veteran’s preferred date.
  • In FY 2015, VA activated 2.2 million square feet of space for clinical, mental health, long-term care, and associated support facilities to care for Veterans.
  • VA held two Access Stand Downs, focusing on patients with the most urgent health care needs first. During a nationwide Access Stand Down that took place on February 27, the one-day event resulted in VA reviewing the records of more than 80,000 Veterans to get those waiting for urgent care off wait lists; 93 percent of Veterans waiting for urgent care were contacted, with many receiving earlier appointments.
  • VA increased its total clinical work (direct patient care) by 10 percent over the last two years as measured by private sector standards (relative value units). This increase translates to roughly 20 million additional provider hours of care for our Veterans.
  • VA is also working to increase clinical staff, add space and locations in areas where demand is increasing and extending clinic hours into nights and weekends, all of which have helped increase access to care even as demand for services increases.
  • VA is addressing critical components necessary for the delivery of a seamless community care experience by consolidating all purchased care programs into one Veterans Choice Program (New VCP). The New VCP will clarify eligibility requirements, strengthen VA’s high-performing network, streamline clinical and administrative processes, and implement a care coordination model across the continuum of care.
  • VHA offers an extensive community provider network of over 257,000 providers through the PC3/Choice Programs and more are joining each month.
  • VA Telehealth services are critical to expanding access to VA care in more than 45 clinical areas.
  • In FY2015, 12 percent of all Veterans enrolled for VA care received Telehealth based care. This includes 2.14 million telehealth visits, touching 677,000 Veterans.

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Comments

  1. DannyG    

    Pls tell me then, why is it that the incompetent MH provider I had was allowed to transfer, rather than being disciplined, after several complaints, to a much higher-paying system. Also, why I was never notified that she transferred; my appt on March 15th was canx’d, without notice, & why I have yet to receive an answer to the call I made that same day stating that I am going thru some “crap”, & NEED to see someone!
    I try to be supportive of the VETERANS Administration, but this whole situation is a prime example of why WE, THE VETERANS, have a hard time trusting the gov’t-run system. I still believe in Secretary McDonald, but also still despise the gov’t!

  2. Marcus Hughes    

    Your a bunch of circus clowns, murderers and liars, we don’t need you or want you, as a matter of fact, there are many efforts to dismantle and destroy your criminal organization, but you are guarded by higher ranking criminals in DC, but the time will come, until then, continue being pieces of (redacted) and killing our service members, lying, cheating and stealing and don’t be shocked when you find out that karma sucks, losers.

    1. DannyG    

      I get ticked off, a bit radical, & mouthy; BUT COMMENTS LIKE THIS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED! DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER & FILTHY LANGUAGE HAVE NO PLACE IN A PUBLIC FORUM.

      1. DannyG    

        Besides, WHO gave you the right to say what WE want? I want the gov’t to keep it’s word to ALL honorable veterans, & take care of us, just like people have done since before the first Europeans arrived in my Grandfathers’ backyards!

    2. tom    

      Right on brother. They like to put out this BS while they murder us vets.

  3. DannyG    

    Mr. Hughes, my Brother, Thank you! Reading these comments & the ones abt how ticked off I am at DAV for obliterating our country’s colors from their logo has made me realize something. I’m turning into a grumpy old man/crazy vet!
    While the VETERANS Administration is making all this progress, I, like so many other vets, am regressing & still no call from the MH clinic. Why don’t I call them ? — I did (see above).
    The point I want to make is that fancy “IT”, BIG “PR” write-ups, & billions of $$$ won’t change anything if people, FROM THE BOTTOM, UP,are not held accountable for their OWN job performance! Don’t tell me they were too busy; BEEN THERE & DONE THAT for many years!
    I still dislike your grammar, but, Thanks!
    Brothers and Sisters, I believe in the One God, Creator of all things; I believe that He hears our prayers, & in His time, He will answer! (It may not be the answer we want…) I tell you this because you are ALL in my prayers! We are ALL family!

    1. Cheryl Duclos    

      I am in complete agreement with you. My husband and I were both in Viet Nam. I lost my husband 3 weeks ago today. I am now in the process of applying for Aid and Assistance. They say that they will expedite the process, but if I remember the military, and even after all of these years I think I still do, that statement is an oxymoron to me. How about you guys?

  4. Walter S Home    

    I get the best health care at the Fresno VA-they are all conscientious people, and do their very best-my care is always timely and efficient; I say the Fresno VA care-and also the Palo Alto care facilities are the BEST-and their staff is the greatest!

  5. Bruce Epper    

    They talk about all of this progress that has been made and how much better things are but back in July at the Phoenix VA I entered the ER with obvious signs of DKA yet I ended up waiting for hours to be seen only to be transferred to a nearby university hospital for treatment. Apparently they waited so long that they could no longer handle my medical emergency.

    Although, I must say, the university hospital did an amazing job of pulling me back from death’s door.

    And a tip for other vets. Don’t bother going to the ER for any problems that involve severe pain. They won’t do a damn thing to help you with that such as finding the cause of the pain. Or giving your anything to relieve that symptom at all.

    1. larry downs    

      My primary care phys. had me go to the local E>R> due to VA was 90miles away. Outside care Cheif refused to pay and told me to file with Medicare costing me 20% of $8000. I was blacking out and could not drive the 90 miles. So much for Vet Medical Care. Larry Downs

  6. elwood fennimore    

    with all about talk of access to local by the medical assistance by doctors other than at va hospitals it seems to have been put under the. …I live 21 miles from the va hospital through heavy traffic. i am 84 and a vet of the Korean war and unable to drive. there is no public transportation available thus I am denied full use of access to care. why can those of us with this problem not have access to local doctors who normally treat our problems..

  7. elwood fennimore    

    why can we not have use of our local dr. I am 84 a vet of the Korean war and disabled. I am like many of us, cannot use the va facilities. I cannot drive and no public transportation avail able

  8. Donald Gokey    

    The VA Healthcare System needs to begin offering, consistently and uniformly, medical travel services, a door-to-door service. They need to stop depriving many veterans from access to VA healthcare. All veterans, who are qualify for the Beneficial Travel Benefit, are also qualified for a medical transportation service (SMT or VTS). Most veterans are not aware of the SMT benefit, and most VA providers do not tell veterans about the benefit. Since it could be a life saving benefit, I don’t know why provides are silent; maybe it is the extra paper work burden.

    Many veterans, especially veterans with serious mobility issues (wheelchair users, and others) should be offered VA-provided medical transportation. There are lots of ill and frail veterans for whom transportation is difficult and/or dangerous, often highway-dangerous to everyone. The VA should make more and better use of the Special Mode or Transportation (SMT) benefit. It is legally authorized for qualified veterans when a there is a need to have a “special” vehicle, such as a wheelchair van, an ambulance, or other commercial vehicles, when medically modified. The vehicle might even be a “med-vac” airplane.

    There are many veterans who meet the administrative qualifications for SMT, but either the veteran is unaware of the benefit, or the VAMC won’t give them the needed clinical authorization – causing dangerous driving and other hardships within families. This can be WORSE than waiting a long time for an appointment. If a veterans can’t accept an appointment due to a lack of safe transportation it is the same as not having an appointment. All VA medical transportation of qualified veterans should be offered this VA-benefit, including travel under the Veterans Choice Program and travel for both short or long distances. For safety, providers should offer the benefit to all qualified veterans. Many “to-proud-to-ask” veterans might not have safe transportation available; they are still qualified even if they lack a safe driver and have their own wheelchair vans.

    SMT is different than Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) which all veterans are eligible to use. VTS may or may not use “special-mode” vehicles and usually does not provide door-to-door service.

  9. Joe F Harris    

    More talk from the VA, I’ve been fighting VA for 46 years but on Aug 18, 2016 here in Shreveport La I’m going to be heard along with other area Vet’s. I’m organizing a Demonstration/Protest that will be held on the Texas Street Bridge between Shreveport and Bossier City. All Vet’s are invited to attend, if we stick together we’ll get results. NUMBERS GET RESULTS. This is First Demonstration of many to come. We’re going to Demonstrate until personal changes are made within VA and VBA. These changes will not be transferred to another department but out the door, You don’t transfer untrained, Un qualified, criminals to solve a problem. We don’t want to hear that it’s the system, systems are made up of people, Poor system/poor employees, Good systems have good people running them. Remember Vet’s let’s stick together, Numbers and Demonstrations will get results. I’m Joe F Harris from Haughton La. Viet Nam Vet, WIA, USMC Recon, Quang Tri. 12 months and 10 days in country.

  10. Alfred e cole    

    I’ve had nothing but the best and efficient help with my disabilities at the James Haley hospital in Tampa fl. Very professional in taking care of my health problems. If only the region office could get their shit together in taking care of veterans needs on the percent of disability. I have been trying for five years to receive 100% disability and they keep screwing me around saying they don’t receive paperwork and close the claim. It gives me the right to appeal but that starts the clock over again. This way they can brag about improving the timeliness of the claim process what bullshit

  11. James Lee burk    

    For the last 46 years I have been going to the VA, my care has been mediocre at the best and at the least I almost died twice. Complaints only get lip service. Get loud and they only want to put you back to an office to eep you quiet. Out of 22 surgeries I have had not one, NOT ONE was successful by any VAHospital. Currently I have been waiting 9 yes that’s NINE months to see a primary care person. I have not had a PCP MD. in over 20 years. In my opinion every single person in any capacity that works for them should be fired. You know I have people that work for them said they would NEVER go to the VA unless they had no other choice.

  12. william may    

    who can i talk to for help? i really have some issues and i went to my unit but no one can help me its hard for someone to take me serious.

  13. Jerry Tennant    

    I’m a 69yo Nam vet who was a medic. I’ve been in three different VA districts. Louisville KY was the best but it had a lot of incompetent’s in the medical staff. The DC hospital was a pig sty and vets were treated like dirt. They waited three years to RX and start to treat my prostrate cancer.
    They acted like it was coming out of their pockets and refused to answer any questions I had. I waited so long they said there was only one choice of treatments. I’ve been pissing blood and clots for almost two years now because of the heavy radiation treatments. I’ve seen my “urologist” in Salem every six months for a three minute appt. He listens to nothing I say and doesn’t answer any questions. Six weeks ago I got test results back from my wife’s civilian Doctor. He found cancer cells in my bloody urine sample and said to see a urologist asap. I got an appt six weeks later but saw a Dr assistant who had no idea what to do and so did nothing.
    I firmly believe the policy is it’s cheaper to bury us than give us worse service than a veterinarian.
    Two years ago I applied for a disability upgrade. At least half of what was written about my exam in Salem was pure BS given by the NURSE PA. I filed a complaint, it got me calls and a letter from the Director of the hospital telling me I was wrong. You would think I cursed the flag the way they treated me. None of my “doctors” have physically examined me, other than listen to my chest, in the last five years. If you read my VA records they say they did all sort of things, that never happened in a visit. I would think falsifying VA records would be criminal but nearly every one does it. Pathetic and shameful the dirty tricks they pull on vets.

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