VA Secretary tells the House Committee that he wants Veterans to be treated sooner and closer to home



The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing titled “Shaping The Future: Consolidating And Improving VA Community Care,” where VA Secretary David Shulkin spoke about his vision for the future of VA Community Care, including the Veterans Choice Program.

“Our overarching concern is that Veterans have access to high quality care when they need it—regardless of whether in a VA facility or in their communities. Our goal for VA Community Care is to deliver a program that is easy to understand, simple to administer and meets Veterans’ needs,” Shulkin said.

Since the start of the program, more than 1.2 million Veterans have received community care. A million appointments in FY 2015 has now increased to 5.5 million in FY 2016. While highlighting these improvements, the secretary also laid out a plan to modernize and consolidate community care which included seven key elements.

  1. Maintain a high-performing, integrated network that includes VA, other federal partners, academic affiliates and community providers;
  2. Increase Choice for all Veterans, starting with those who have service-connected conditions;
  3. Ensure enrolled Veterans get the care they need closer to home when appropriate;
  4. Optimize coordination of VA health care benefits with the private health insurance that an enrolled Veteran may already have;
  5. Maintain affordability of health care options for the lowest income Veterans;
  6. Assist in coordination of care for Veterans served by multiple providers and;
  7. Apply  industry standards for performance, quality, patient satisfaction, payment models and health outcomes.

“We know our number one priority is to provide Veterans access to the high quality care they have earned—in a VA facility or as close to their homes as possible, in the communities where they and their families live,” he said.

Author

Melissa Heintz

Melissa Heintz joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2015 and currently works as the National Veterans Day Coordinator, National Veterans Outreach. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard.

Comments

  1. Daniel Santos    

    I knew that my comments would not be presented in this forum. This type of non-respond is indicative of the care we get.

  2. wayne Reid    

    I go to the Birmingham VA and get good service there. However, my problem is with the local VA clinic in Sheffield, AL. They tell me that they can only see me twice a year because they are short of doctors. What do you do if you need to see the doctor prior to your six month checkup? This clinic needs to be shut down and let us go to outside Doctors! I have had problems that need a doctor’s attention but get no where with the clinic! I have being trying to see a doctor for more than two months but am not getting anywhere with this clinic!

  3. liz    

    Mr. Shulkin, its not Congress RoadBlocking my care into my Community! All my other care has been simplified into my Community EXCEPT for One Department Head, at VA Palo Alto, CA who has repeatedly made it his personal mission to deny my VA Primary Care Medical Doctor’s requests; requests from the Spine Specialist in my Community that will honor Veteran’s Choice, and requests from my family begging that the long 90 minute transportation ride goes against my Primary Care Doctor’s advice…and still this Department Head will not ease her suffering. Is it no wonder why Veteran’s will not seek care at VA facilities, when Doctors are not held accountable to anyone? Families have no one they can call when dealing with the likes of this? Patient Advocates cannot help me? My own Primary Care Doctor said she can do nothing more? Her family would appreciate any help as soon as possible with this last piece, before its too late.

  4. Donald Doramus    

    I have type 2 diabetes and am 73. The VA Facility is 1 1/2hrs from my home for a 5 minute blood test. I have a clinic 20 minutes from my home that can do the same thing & a Doctor I really would like to keep! Is there anyway to change to the clinic & doctor vs the 1 1/2hrs to the VA, & a Doctor that has an over crowded schedule, & can only see once a year!

  5. John Korch    

    I live 16 miles from my va clinic which does not allow me to use the Choice program.
    I had to see a dermatologist and the nearest va hospital was 5 hours from home 1 way.
    While I did receive travel pay, how does a 10 hour round trip make any sense?
    Local dermatologists and hospitals within 10 miles from home. Choice Program needs
    Fixed!!!

    1. marie boyd    

      Your situation is like ours in Hinesville Ga. We are told that we have to go to Charleston SC. It is a long day and savannah has all the hospitals and speciality doctors you could want. But the VA or Choice Program have so many billing problems that alot of doctors or hospitals do not want to deal with it. The program needs a firm hand in seeing that all aspects are addressed.

  6. Juan Gonzales    

    In 2011 I was treated for prostate cancer thru my works ins. I didn’t know it at the time but PirC can be caused by agent Orange. In 2013 I applied to the VA for a problem of going to the restroom 4-5 times per night. Within 30 days I was examined by a VA contract doctor. In 60 days I was awarded 20 percent disability. The problem got worse in 2014. I asked the VA to review their finding. This time I was examined by a VA doctor. He found that my cancer was back, he filled his report and the VA awarded me temp 100 percent. They schedule a yearly exam. In my case the VA has come thur.

  7. Tom Miller    

    I’ve been on the surgical wait list over 7 years for a broken patella (knee cap). I got a call last year asking me if I wanted to stay on the list. I replied, “absolutely”! I now have severe arthritis in my right knee cap because of the VA not caring about noncombat veteran with PTSD having MST for stressor.

  8. Ernest David Collier    

    I live at Ripley, WV and my closest VA Medical Center is 195 miles away (round trip) to Huntington, WV. I am required to travel to that location for all my health care needs except Primary Care which is located in Gallipolis,OH which is 60 miles round trip. I have recently taken advantage of the Choice Program for my Optometry appointments which is located in Charleston, WV which is 80 miles away, round trip. The only other alternative I have is to ride the VA provided transportation which takes all day. I am a 87 year old veteran with 10% disability and the trips are long enough without spending all day on the road. The trips to VA provided healthcare centers is becoming much more difficult each day.
    It would a great blessing if I could my healthcare needs through our local facilities which is within 6 miles of home, round trip.

    Ernest Collier

  9. Joe Jackson    

    My VA makes me got to Columbia (120 miles away) instead of Asheville (60 miles away) because they cannot refer a vet outside of their “Region”. This is not something that we need Congress to approve – it is something that the VA needs to get off their ass and figure out (about a 1st grade issue to understand) Ps. I wrote my congressman, but as told it was a VA issue

  10. Richard    

    VA Secretary David Shulkin wants to Increase Choice for all Veterans, starting with those who have service-connected conditions;   THat gives Veterans with service-connected disabilities some priority.

    do you think it means that I can pick whatever private doctor I would like to see as opposed to VA picking one??

    I doubt that my private retina specialist would accept CHOICE unless I bring the cash up front.    The doctor’s past problems with non-payment by VA Choice have soured him.

    Obviously I  do not know where this is going.

  11. JOSEPH E SCIONTI    

    HAVE BEEN WAITING OVER THREE WEEKS TO BE SCHEDULED WITH AN INDEPENDENT DOCTOR
    FOR A HEARING TEST. I WAS GIVEN THE TELEPHONE NO OF THE ORGANIZTION WHO IS GOING
    TO HANDLE THE SCHEDULING. I HAVE CONTACTED THEM EVERY MONDAY FOR THE PAST 3 WEEKS. THEY HAVE NOT AS YET RECEIVED AUTHORITION TO SCHEDULE AND FIND A DOCTOR.

    PLEASE REPLY

  12. JOSEPH E SCIONTI    

    I HAVE BEEN WAITING OVER THREE WEEKS TO BE SCHEDULED WITH AN INDEPENDENT DOCTOR
    FOR A HEARING TEST. I WAS GIVEN THE TELEPHONE NO OF THE ORGANIZTION WHO IS GOING
    TO HANDLE THE SCHEDULING. I HAVE CONTACTED THEM EVERY MONDAY FOR THE PAST 3 WEEKS. THEY HAVE NOT AS YET RECEIVED AUTHORITION TO SCHEDULE AND FIND A DOCTOR.

    PLEASE REPLY

  13. Richard Hayes    

    Here in Tucson, the local VA has sent me to a local provider 3 times for MRI’s or CAT Scans. This was because they could not get me an appointment within a certain time period. As for the guy who wants medical cannabis, good luck. It is still illegal at the federal level so it will not happen anytime soon I am afraid.

  14. Larry Lenzen    

    I’m from the Albuquerque VA I have a security guard a policeman following me around everywhere I go every appointment I go in the bathroom into the appointment just to make sure I meet their standards of not talking to the doctor . Sgt Larry Lenzen

  15. Matthew Gunn    

    The VA needs to hurry up and give us medical cannabis for PTSD, TBI, chronic pain and other stuff now!!!!!! So that way we can live with less pain and misery. But, most of all be able to live and not die due to the B.S. pharmaceutical drugs that they they keep pushing on us!!!

  16. Thomas F Mohnkern Sr    

    VA Secretary tells the House Committee that he wants Veterans to be treated sooner and closer to home.

    My local VA Clinic tells me I now have to go to the VA Hospital in Erie (65 miles) Penna. to get tests done! They recently made me go 60 miles north (in the winter) to get a 5 min cat scan! Absolutely ridiculous – this is not the care they promised us lifers and Vets….In other words, I spent 4 hours on the road to get a 5 min test done! Our new VA Sec wants treatment at locations closer to home! Write him and encourage him to keep on the House Committee so we can once again get our testing done at local hospitals. According the my VA Clinic in Franklin, PA., this is a new requirement and they can no longer refer us to a local hospital for testing. I’ve not heard of any such decision. Have you?

    1. John Schmit    

      You might want to keep on your elected representative instead of the Secretary. He’s doing his part, it’s up to those who vote on it to make it happen. Call and write them. Bob, Sloan and now Shulkin have preached until they are blue in the face. The ball is in Congresses court. By the way, they are the reason you had to drive 60 miles for a 5 minute test. Not Bob McDonald, not Dr. Shulkin and not VA. Congress made the law, only they can change it. Just saying …. bark up the right tree.

    2. Patricia Campbell    

      Thomas, I have the same problem, my local VA clinic tells me to drive an hour each way to get tests. I work a full time job and it is very difficult to take off of work. Then when I go to the appointment, I end up waiting. I have tried to get them to let me schedule the test at our local Hospital, but to no avail.

Comments are closed.