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New Surveys: Help us gauge the performance of the VA MISSION Act

New Surveys: Help us gauge the performance of the VA MISSION Act

VHPI has launched two surveys – one for veterans and another for VA staff. We want to know how VA Community Care providers are measuring up. Do they understand veterans’ unique needs? Do VA staff have the information they need to ensure veterans are getting the best care possible? Tell us about your experience:

Ask these questions before you’re referred to Community Care

With the launch of the VA MISSION Act, it’s important to know the type of care you’ll receive from non-VA Community providers. VHPI has developed a wallet card to take to your VA appointment. The nine questions will help you make an informed choice about your medical care. Read more and download a copy of the card at the VHPI Blog.

There’s something different about VA facilities

Two Vietnam War veterans write about what makes VA facilities unique – and what could be lost if they begin to close. Here’s an excerpt from the VHPI Blog:

The many recent stories about veterans taking their life at VA facilities are no doubt tragic. But in fact, on-campus suicides are actually decreasing while suicides by veterans who do not use VA care is rising. We hope Trump VA Administration officials have properly vetted and educated the Community Care Network partners in recognizing a veteran in crisis and evidence-based care to care for them.

Bad information could lead to bad outcomes in Community Care

Last week, President Donald Trump said the VA MISSION Act allowed veterans to go to any physician of their choosing and the VA would pay for it. Not even close. Statements like these sew confusion among veterans about what providers are in the Community Care Network and those who are not – which could leave veterans stuck with the bill. More from Iraq War veteran Bridget Lattanzi and VHPI Senior Policy Analyst Russell Lemle, in our conversation about VA MISSION Act performance predictions:

Brett W. Copeland, VHPI Executive Director: Do you will there be confusion about which private sector providers are in the Community Care Network?

Lemle: For the new Urgent Care benefit, that’s totally true. The differentiation between which Urgent Care providers are in the network and which are not is clear as mud to the veteran. The VA has its list, but the veteran won’t have a quick way to know.

Lattanzi: I live kind of far from the VA. I went to an Urgent Care where they have pretty specific things they treat. Like if you had a sprained ankle, they’d send you to the ER. But they’d still bill because they saw you – even if they just referred you to the VA.

I have an issue with my ears – chronic sinus infections. After I’d been twice, they said ‘we can’t treat this anymore because you have a chronic condition. You need to go to a specialist. We don’t do this, and you should go to the VA.’ I still got charged for $80 for no reason, and still had to go to the VA.

Walgreens and CVS MinuteClinics, they’re not looking for veteran-specific connections. They have a very limited amount of time they spend with each patient, so they’re not looking for other problems you may have. When I go to the VA, even though I’ve been medically retired for three years, they still go down a list of questions, asking me about my mental health.

One time I was with my VA provider for something else and I had a high heart rate. She put me in for a sleep study and it turned out that I had sleep apnea. Urgent Care isn’t looking for stuff like that, so a lot of stuff will be missed.

Lemle: Walk-in Urgent Care clinics exist in lots of locations, but many of those clinics are not in VA’s Community Care Network. If a veteran walks into the wrong clinic, they will be responsible for the full amount. The veteran will have a hard time figuring that out while hastily trying to make a decision where to go during an urgent situation. Click here to read the rest of our team’s MISSION Act predictions.

The VA Staffing Crisis

Last week there were several stories that all had the same underlying issue: 50,201 VA staff vacancies exist, impacting patient care and agency readiness. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and the Trump administration continue to downplay the issue. Here’s the impact:

  • Providence Journal: Vacancies left unfilled as Trump administration encourages non-VA referrals. From the article: “The vast majority of veterans want to get their care at the VA, where the medical staff is trained to address their unique and specialized needs, and where one-third of employees are veterans themselves,” [AFGE National VA Council president Alma] Lee said. “Yet by allowing vacancies inside the VA to steadily rise, and rushing through reforms that will push more veterans to the private sector, it’s clear that this administration is ignoring the will of veterans in a blind pursuit to privatize the VA.”
  • Government Executive: No one really knows how VA Integrated Service Networks perform because the Veterans Health Administration is unable to routinely oversee staff as key positions are left unfilled
  • ConnectingVets Radio: Emergency response preparedness has suffered as overworked staff and staff shortages have made it impossible to care for patients and prepare emergency supplies

$3.2 million grant awarded to continue VA doc’s innovative work

From Temple Daily Telegram News:

Dr. Chetan Jinadatha, a lead researcher with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, was awarded two grants valued at $3.2 million for his work in using self-sanitizing copper surface to reduce hospital-acquired infections and the implementation of VA patented technology to track disinfection of medical equipment.

On Friday, Jinadatha and other VA officials discussed the research and equipment now being used at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center.

Infectious disease is an important topic of hospitals across the globe; people come to hospitals to get well, not to get sicker, said Dr. Solomon Williams, acting chief of staff.

“This focused and important work is critical to what we do at this hospital,” he said.

David Dostal, acting associate chief of staff for research at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, has been aware of Jinadatha’s research from its beginning.

“You see the protocols, but you never know where it’s going to lead,” Dostal said.

Copper is an amazing compound that dates back to the Egyptian and Babylonian ages, he said. Soldiers rubbed bronze filings into their wounds because they knew it prevented infections.

“In Paris, the copper workers were protected against cholera and the bubonic plague,” he said. “It’s great to see this metal deployed in a very practical way.”

The $2.2 million grant from Health and Human Services is funding “A Trial to Explore the Benefits of Antimicrobial Self-Sanitizing Surfaces on Bio-Burden Levels and Healthcare-Acquired Infections.”

The $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health is funding a study on “Improving Patient Outcomes through Tracking and Displaying the Disinfection Status of Equipment and Area.”

It’s not easy getting grants for this type of work, said Jinadatha, chief of the infectious diseases section at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System.

Related: Veteran study participants and VA scientists demonstrate innovations in medicine, science, and technology for lawmakers during the second annual “Research Day on the Hill.”

Veterans’ Health Stories in Brief

  • VAntage Point Blog: VA Released Request for Information on how to better combat non-VA suicides
  • Military Times: Military Sexual Trauma – Does the burden of proof fall on the victim?
  • Las Vegas Review-Journal: New leader at the VA Southern Nevada Health Care System see opportunities and honor in role
  • Citrus County Chronicle Online: Shifting patients in care shakeup – how the MISSION Act is impacting administrative decisions in Tampa and Gainesville
  • Stars and Stripes: President Trump to hold a conference call with Robert Wilkie, Veterans on Tuesday
  • Manistee News Advocate: An investigation into the choking death of a WWII veteran at a non-VA nursing home is reopened

Wary about changes brought on by the MISSION Act

From the Longview News-Journal:

Two veterans who attended the meeting said they are pleased with the health care services that the VA provides.

Vietnam War Army veteran Charles Persons of Hallsville said the VA is a “big bureaucracy.” However, he said he did not endure waits during his past three visits to Overton Brooks to have X-rays and to see a dermatologist.

Persons said he did not enroll in the VA until 2002 because he worked full time for years in the private sector where he had health care coverage.

“I actually got better services from the VA than I got from my early HMOs,” Persons said.

Coming up on Capitol Hill

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Mental and medical care is hard to come by for deported veterans

From the Pulitzer Center:

“That night, I don’t really think I slept either. And … it was a big room, and I spent all night in one corner fixing my paperwork, separating everything. And then you hear gunshots down the street right outside,” Pérez said.

While veterans with service-related injuries have access to medical care, since his deportation Pérez has struggled to find mental health professionals and medication.

He suffered a traumatic brain injury from combat. He’s battled depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for years. But living alone and thousands of miles away from his family in Chicago, suicide has felt like a solution for Pérez. Last year, on two occasions, he attempted to take his own life.

“I think it was when I was just feeling really, really bad. And … I just started shaking and sweating. And I couldn’t really do anything,” Pérez said. “That’s when it first happened and I was just like … maybe I’d be better off dead.”

When a VA facility opens, its impact is felt across the community

From South Carolina ABC Affiliate WPDE:

A new Florence VA nursing home will create 100 new permanent jobs and generate nearly $20 million in revenue for the Florence economy during the construction phase of the project, according to Florence County Senator Hugh Leatherman.