How you can improve health care access for Vets

VA’s commitment to providing timely access to health care


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The Department of Veterans Affairs is actively taking steps to acknowledge the appointment and access-to-care concerns our Veterans have experienced recently. To start, VA conducted Access Stand Down events in both November 2015 and February 2016. These nationwide stand-downs allowed staff and volunteers the opportunity to focus on one thing – making appointments for Veterans who needed them the most.

Many of these Veterans had been on long waiting lists. After sorting through the files of more than 80,000 Veterans, VA was able to contact 93 percent of those who were in need of urgent care. After prioritizing appointments based on need, VA scheduled new, timelier appointments. Many of those appointments were held on a single day, with VA staff being called in to perform everything from eye to heart surgery.

The number of Veterans in need of less urgent care, such as annual exams, routine checkups and nonmedical matters, was also evaluated. They were each given a priority standing and had appointments rescheduled.

“We know that in order to best serve Veterans, we should be prioritizing those who need care most urgently,” said Dr. David Shulkin, VA Under Secretary for Health.

Improving access to care is a top priority for VA and its employees. As a result, more than 1,400 physicians and 4,100 n

urses, in addition to staff we already have on hand, have been hired to help us provide proper care to our patients. VA has also recently opened up 3.9 million square feet of new facilities, offering more care to those in rural areas as well as large cities with crowded hospitals. We are still growing, still hiring and still expanding our care across the country. That means we still need you.

Through prioritizing, expanding access and increasing staff availability, VA is certain we will end this crisis and provide our Veterans with the care they deserve. We’d like your help delivering on our commitment to providing timely access to care for all Veterans. Help us serve those who’ve served by joining our team of qualified nurses, physicians and myriad other health care workers.

Author

Dan Green

Comments

  1. Ademi Santiago    

    Hi Liz,
    I definitely agree with you. VA fellow vets have questioned me how long did I have to wait for an MRI, CT Scan appointment and discovered that if you don’t have private insurance, it will take you longer to obtain the appointment. Unless of course, it’s due to an Emergency.
    My Doctors at the VA are awesome and work really hard to see as many patients as possible. My major complaint was in getting the run around when, I repeatedly requested for a copy of my own medical records. I got suspicious after being told phony excuses or blunt lies! I wondered if other vets were having the same problem and that’s when I decided to take extreme measures!
    Write a letter to the President, all your Senators, VAIG, IG and even to Senator John McCain in Washington DC with your concerns, especially if it’s Service Connected.
    Arm yourself with knowledge thur esearch and obtain a Complete copy of your own medical records. You will be surprised upon reading results of lab, CT, MRI , X-Rays etc to include Doctors and Nurses notes!!
    Check out FOIA.gov. I now have a better understanding of what’s going on with my health. This will enable me to make educated health decisions instead of having to totally rely on my Doctors.
    Hang in there and don’t, don’t give up!

  2. liz    

    VAHC just received more than $165 B – do you think any of that money is going any where but in the pockets of the Under Secretary and every Director of every VA Hospital that sheds Veterans out their Health Care doors -either get them off the Opiates, so it meets the 90% reduction off prescriptions written -regardless that 90% of Veterans were injured in the Line of Duty and their Chronic Pain is due to Back injuries, knee injuries, amputees, burns,etc. Second: Reduction will amount to less office visits.
    This will all amount to more money saved by Psych visits alone by PTSD and Chronic Pain.
    Directors in all these clinics-General Medicine, Chronic Pain, Psychology, Pharmacy are instructed to continually deny, not validate, stigmatize Veterans that their injuries are not worthy of pain medication, and anti-anxiety drugs- and we are now “Drug Seekers.” Their bonuses depend on it. They know they cannot lose their jobs. They do not depend on patient satisfaction scores. Our Congressmen know it will mean less tax dollars.

  3. paul kluge    

    Holy Moley! A lot of angry vets out there with the V.A. health care system. I feel blessed that this part of the country we have the best medical care one could ask for compared to the private system. Folks forget that the private sector of health care is rife with poor patient care. Still happy to wave the flag in this free and beautiful country of ours!!!

  4. Ademi Santiago    

    Obtaining a copy of your own medical records from Myhealth.va.gov by utilizing the program’s Blue Button is useless! What’s worse is attempting to obtain them directly from the VA Medical Records Department in Miami, FL. I was told excuses and lies as to why they couldn’t comply with my request.

    I had been reguesting these Medical Records for over 10 years! It’s apparent to me that the VA doesn’t care for its vets to be informed and in control of their own health. This disturbs me because I had faith that all Doctors within the VA Hospital Centers would do the utmost in seeking the best care for me. Now, I feel the VA system has both failed and violated my rights!
    This is the thanks, I get for serving our country?
    I wrote to a few Senators and only ONE ( Senator Bill Nelson) was able to follow through in obtaining a FULL /complete copy of my VA Medical Records. Thanks to him, I was able to read in shock!,medical comments, lab & test results of things, I had never been informed of. I just kept asking myself “why?” I thought that by law, we have the legal right to be informed of anything in regards to our health!

    This experience has caused me distrust and depend on our VA Medical System. I will continue to pay for private Medical Insurance in order to obtain a second opinion. May God Bless us all!

  5. Ademi Santiago    

    Obtaining a copy of your own medical records from Myhealth.va.gov by utilizing the program’s Blue Button is useless! What’s worse is attempting to obtain them directly from the VA Medical Records Department in Miami, FL. I received nothing ume
    nothing but false excuses as to why they couldn’t comply with my request.

    I had been reguesting these Medical Records for over 10 years! It’s apparent to me that the VA doesn’t care for its vets to be informed and in control of their own health. This disturbs me because I had faith that all Doctors within the VA Hospital Centers would do the utmost in seeking the best care for me. Now, I feel that the VA system has violated my rights in being informed. Is this how, I get treated for serving and protecting our country?…
    I wrote to a few Senators and only ONE ( Senator Bill Nelson) was able to follow through in obtaining a FULL /complete copy of my VA Medical Records. Thanks to him, I was able to read in shock!,medical comments, lab & test results of things, I had never been informed of. I just kept asking myself “why?” We all have a right to be informed of anything that concerns our health! This experience has now caused me to no longer entirely trust nor depend on our VA system.
    I will continue to pay for private medical health insurance so that I can obtain a second opinion. God Bless us all!

    1. liz    

      Adam Santiago-After reading your experience I went to read Myhealthvet and was shocked by the inaccuracy of statements. I have been told by my GMC I should buy an HMO if I want to continue with pain medication because she will no longer be writing for it…..of course I’ve gone up the chain, to no avail. I have left my own note below. I will continue to document my requests to manage pain, and her denials. Yes, may God Bless us All. If it wasn’t for us, these fools would not have jobs. (there are some very wonderful people, but the ones at the top are as corrupt as the Headlines, they are just below the radar and twisting the charting to cover their asses, its disgusting. One provider actually asked me “Why do you want to read your chart anyways?” I told her, “I want to see what you say about me?? Maybe whats the plan of action?
      Take care my friend, you have a right to have copies of all you Medical files, digital copies of X-rays,dentals X-rays, so you don’t need to pay for them again if you go on the outside.

  6. Anthony M Saya    

    I served my 3 years 1966 – 1969 and was proudly discharged but today I am told great but your not eligible for VA healthcare. My congressman get life care and pension but us proud VETS get the shaft.

  7. Catherine Hankins    

    Transportation is a big issue for me. I live in a rural area and the bus system is impossible. It takes me 2 hours to get to the VA (med) and 3 hours to get home. 9-10 months of the year this is in temperatures of 90 +. Thus I often avoid going to the VA when I really should be seeing my care giver. Appointments are suggested for me to go to a facility for tests other than at my local VA clinic. Often these are no where near a bus stop. Now I not only have to navigate the bus schedule and change buses in the heat, but am required to walk quite a distance to and from the closest bus stop. I am required to have blood work about 4 times a year to regulate medication I can not be without. The blood work is then followed up with an appointment with my care giver; that means 2-7 days AFTER blood work. What I don’t understand is why the VA can’t have a team that visits us at home, draws blood and perhaps collects urine samples if need be. Insurance companies and several state medical programs have been doing this for years. If the VA wants to outsource, this would be perfect for many of us. How bout you ask your volunteer groups to start a service for rides? I for one would be happy to pay a nominal fee to cover gas. Just a few suggestions to address those of us who no longer drive but still need care and consideration of our limitations.

  8. Jay Cranor    

    The pride of the VA Health system is the MyHealth.va.gov web site program that allows veterans to access their medical prescriptions for reordering and tracking shipping, track their appointments and much more. It’s totally necessary for many veterans. Big problem is that it doesn’t work for veterans with large files, that needs it because of their many health problems. My account has been frozen from updating and useless since August 2015. Been keeping in contact with Network people, with the only response from them is, “Your trouble ticket is still open and we know there is a problem.” This has caused me to be without medicine for weeks and dozens of unpleasant phone conversation. I still have the belief that if the right person knew of this problem, that it would get fixed.

  9. Albert Nigh    

    I have been a patient and also a VA employee of the Eisenhower VA medical center for 20+ years and I can’t complain about the Care I received both as an employee and patient! As an employee I wasn’t the model employee because of problems I have been dealing with for a long time. As a patient the VA has saved my life! I had problems with depression and I basically hated myself! I also woke up one morning and the room was spinning! A few days ago I notice my pupils weren’t equal but I didn’t think I had a problem because I though might be the lighting in the bathroom. My wife tooke to urgent care ran by the local hospital. I was asked about symptoms and I mentioned diziness so I was put 1st to be seen. I went into the exam room and the provider looked in my ears and said I had an ear infection! I was given a prescription for meds. I went to work the next day and got an appointment with my VA provider. She looked at me and did some basic balance tests and decided that a neurology appointment was necessary! The neurologist ordered an MRI and after he received the results he said I had a stroke! I feel with the treatment I have received the VA has saved my life!

  10. Junk Bin    

    1. fire VA workers who are substandard
    2. prosecute any law breakers on the payroll
    3. Cut pay and benefits by 20 percent and institute bianual reviews of performance

  11. K.R. White    

    “We know that in order to best serve Veterans, we should be prioritizing those who need care most urgently,” said Dr. David Sulking, VA Under Secretary for Health. Yes, definitely, but there are many others who are on impossible delays who if they do not get in are susceptible to being worse off when they finally do. A lot of new “bells and Whistles” are being added to the VA system, certain groups are being highlighted now, but the main issue remains, get people into appointments and do your BASIC job. People with valid issues do not care about bells & whistles, that’s just to make the bureaucrats feel good and get their bonuses. There should be NO bonuses in the VA till all backlogs are zeroed out. None. That means Dr Sulking too.

  12. Pat Jahnke    

    This full of bs,. Dr. Keep moving , u can not happy a primary dr ore than 3-4 months, get a new one , I HATE NP in va system they take away all drugs that vet needs, give you stuff that makes u worse , doesn’t work at all or nasty side effects or all three,. Va health system still sucks it took 4 get phone call pain clinic wait another month to cc them, va test new thing my new dr refuses chk in to it, proven he is p vets out,o instead she told try to Botox so what does veterans do I keep fighting for my care,. THE WHOLE VA SYSTEM SUCK today

  13. AC    

    I have been going to VA in Greater Los Angeles for my service related injuries and ongoing injury with DOD for many years. I have to admit that the care I have been receiving in the past 5 years have been some what a nightmare. Mostly recent I have been complaining about my upper left chest area (heart to be more specific) to my primary doctor for over a year and the doctor’s at the VA Long Beach. No one took it serious nor requested any type of heart stress test, until I switch over to a doctor in Bakersfield VA clinic in which my new doctor request two types of heart test. Two days after the test was done, she call me and inform me to go Emergency at once. I did that day and I had surgery for blockage in my heart. I look back how my primary doctor and others through the years just stated the same statements, Mr. Cano you have too many medical issues and the doctor gave me the impress that I was too much of problem. That’s my short version in a nut shell….

  14. Bobby Dalton    

    I’ve received a VA determined appointment, VA Long Beach Hospital, without any notice/consult and I couldn’t make the appointment set by the VA. And after numerous voicemails/calls I finally got the appointment cancelled over a span of 5 business days. WHY?

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