More Veterans getting VA care than ever before – and they like it

Veterans have more health care options and most continue to choose VA


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No matter how you measure it, VA has dramatically improved access to health care for Veterans. The total amount of care delivered is up. Since VA implemented the MISSION Act in June 2019, the number of visits with providers in VA’s community care network is up. Veteran satisfaction is up. And average wait times for VA care are well under MISSION Act eligibility standards for community care in every category.

VA’s front-line staff – physicians, nurses, schedulers, administrative teams, janitors and food service personnel – have been incredible during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have carefully balanced the need to provide Veterans with health care while keeping them as safe as possible.

Here are the facts: VA medical centers never closed, dedicated staff across the nation keep showing up to work every day, and requests for time off among VA staff is at record lows. Veteran trust in VA health care reached all-time highs of over 90% during the pandemic and the willingness of Veterans of all demographics to get the COVID-19 vaccine is a real example of that trust in action.

Safety first

While taking proactive steps to avoid unnecessary face-to-face appointments, VA completed more than 66 million Veteran visits, including face-to-face, telephone and video visits.

VA’s proactive decision to postpone elective procedures and cancel routine in-person appointments saved Veterans’ lives. VA was an early adopter and pioneer in the area of telehealth and quickly ramped up the use of virtual care, primarily video and phone visits. VA’s use of video visits increased by more than 1,700% within fiscal year 2020 – growing to an excess of 160,000 video visits each week.

For Veterans with urgent care needs, we continue to provide that care in a timely manner – an average of 1.1 days for an urgent referral within VA and 1.4 days for an urgent referral to a community provider. Our emergency departments remain open and staffed for Veterans who need emergent care. Veterans also have the option to use the emergency department in their community when that’s their best or nearest option.

Transparent access

Some critics want you to believe that VA isn’t measuring and reporting wait times or providing Veterans with a choice to receive care through our network of community care providers. That just isn’t true. Unlike any other U.S. health care system, VA posts wait time information for its locations of care for anyone to see. You can go to www.accesstocare.va.gov and search by facility, town or zip code to see exactly how long Veterans have waited for similar appointments. This transparency helps Veterans and their caregivers make educated decisions about their care.

Veterans receiving care within VA facilities who have established relationships with their provider wait an average of 4.3 days for primary care; 3.3 days for mental health care appointments and 11.7 days for specialty care. For new patients seeking an appointment with a new provider or for a new issue within a VA facility, average wait times are 15.3 days for primary care, 10.3 days for mental health and 20.4 days for specialty care.

When VA doesn’t provide a service or Veterans choose to wait because they don’t want a telephone or telehealth visit, Veterans have the option to use VA’s community care network.

Actively engaged

We have all been impacted and inconvenienced by the pandemic. At VA, we have worked tirelessly to keep our Veterans and staff safe. That has been, and continues to be, the highest priority from the day we first heard of the virus.

For care in VA, whether Veterans cancel their own appointments or VA cancels the appointment for safety reasons, VA carefully reviews each cancellation to ensure Veterans who need care receive it. VA has reviewed more than 96% of all appointments canceled since January 2020, ensuring that those canceled appointments from early in the pandemic were reviewed first. VA wants to make sure that Veterans have the opportunity for an in-person appointment, had a telehealth visit or no longer need care.

VA has already provided at least one vaccine to nearly 2 million Veterans and staff. In all, VA has administered more than 3.2 million doses to Veterans, employees and Federal partners.

The first groups vaccinated included older and the most vulnerable Veterans. As supply continues to grow, many VA locations have begun vaccinating younger Veterans. VA has been communicating with Veterans throughout the pandemic, using phones, direct mail, secure email and text messaging. To make vaccine scheduling more convenient, VA recently began offering Veterans a text messaging option to schedule appointments.

VA will meet the needs of Veterans who deferred their care during the pandemic and are now ready. Part of this preparation includes referral coordination teams at each facility. They will coordinate care when a provider refers a Veteran for care with a specialist, either in VA or in the community. These teams will ensure Veterans are informed of their options for care, including face-to-face, video and phone, and then get their appointment scheduled quickly.

As VA prepares for life after COVID-19, our objective remains unchanged – to provide the highest-quality care for Veterans when and where they need it.

Veterans have more options for health care today than at any time in history and most continue to choose to receive their care in VA.


Richard A. Stone, MD is the acting Under Secretary for Health for the Veterans Health Administration and oversees the delivery of care to more than 9 million enrolled Veterans at over 1,200 health care facilities. He is a retired Army major general and Afghanistan War Veteran.

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VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Denis Roberson    

    More and more propaganda from the VA. I am going blind and the neurology department either has better things to do or could care less. I suspect it is option 2. Birmingham neurology has been absolutely incompetent since I have been going. They blatantly lie to patients, they threaten patients if we do not change our stated symptoms. They are utterly incompetent as well. I am ashamed to know they represent VA care. I wish I had someone to talk too. I am putting together a plan to get my congressman involved, a lawyer, local news agencies and a protest in August. Only because I have run out of options…

  2. Jim Postlewaite    

    One of the reasons the VA can’t supply the best service is because they keep adding more services and not adding the staff to provide those services. There is a problem with hiring and its HR. We hired 3 nurses last year and have not seen one of them yet.

  3. David L Greenberg    

    I gave up trying to get VA healthcare. I am a Vietnam era veteran. when I send in my application I received a letter saying I was classified 8g.
    I attempted to get an appointment for hearing aids and was told I could not. someone suggested I called DAV to try and get a disability rating because I worked in a motor pool for 5 years but that didn’t go anywhere.
    I think the promises that they made me were false.

  4. Clay Allan Coker    

    You pour your heart out about how you are fifty pounds under weight, not able to eat, sleep, stop crying, under extreme duress from undiagnosed medical condition, newly added extreme pain, life ruined by the jaded attitude that comes with being ignored by a government you signed up to protect. “It must be allergies.” “It must be acid reflux.” “It’s all in your head.” Nevermind the fact you can point to a violent vomiting episode that was immediately followed by these problems more than four years ago. You decide, against all reason, to express your imminent approach to thoughts of suicide and BINGO the phone call comes. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” The voice, filled with dread for having to talk to yet another furious American veteran, squeaks over the phone. This person sits and listens as you RAGE about the incompetence plaguing the Veterans Administration. This person makes the decision to pass you off to a social worker who you then play phone tag with for days.

    All of this being said, It makes me wonder who the real culprit is that is radicalizing our veterans!!!

  5. Daniel Purcell    

    Interesting article given that our VA stopped regular exams and physicals when the coronavirus hit the states, no it’s all urgent care ore telephone…it’s not very effecient.

  6. You wish    

    100% connected for dental is a joke. If we were 100% connected we could afford our own dental.

  7. Sandra Broome    

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020 and the doctors at McGuire’s Veterans Hospital rushed to schedule my surgery before surgeries were delayed due to Covid 19. Surgery was April 10. Had my radiation treatment and no chemo. My radiation and medical oncologist were wonderful. A few bumps in the road but overall great care. Love the valet service . Thanks to all the doctors and technicians be who took care of me.

  8. Melinda Matthews    

    The VA in Montgomery Alabama sucks!! Please someone come in and clean house starting with the Director! To many CLICKS at this facility! If you dont know the right person you will get mistreated or not treated at ALL!! Good luck getting a referral to be seen by local Dr’s….Most will NOT accept VA insurance because they say they either take a long time paying or never pay the bill at all. Trying my best to get from under this region!!

  9. Phillip britt bearden    

    I’m a 46 year old veteran,who lives with his hero & dad, we lost my mom almost 3yrs ago. And yesterday he said that his best friend died from cancer. My brother is trying to take care of both of us & now, I have been recently diagnosed with dementia. I’ve been engaged to kay,for, 12 years and I have 2 daughters from my 1st wif, who is remarried. I was married for11 years. My 3wife, and I are blessed to have 2 daughters Anna & Abby. Kathy,has a daughter and she calls me big daddy. After the Adam Sandler’s movie big daddy. I love you remigrace dee! Keep dancing. I’m so proud if you and I love you, buddy.

  10. Darrell B Crowson    

    MISSION act! What a waste. I did my VA primary care physician about an issue I was having in August. It took until November to finally get a referral to community Care then it took from November to the 9th of March to even get an appointment scheduled which is for the 25th of March. Improved wait times crock of s***

  11. AG    

    VA sucks! I haven’t had a dental appointment in 2 years!! I had to pay a civilian dentist to take care of my teeth while the VA employees sat around getting paid to do nothing. They claim covid prevents them from treating us but the civilian dentists have no problems. They said I can no longer see my psychologist because I’ve used up my visits. Wow. They do this to everyone seeking help? And they wonder why veteran suicide rates are so high?

  12. Heavy D    

    I have been with the VA for only a couple of months now, and I must say I am impressed as a former Marine Artillery Officer. I am getting better care than when I was active duty, it doesn’t feel like a clinic anymore with long wait lines, and I even got my covid-19 vaccine today! I still work and have private health insurance which I gladly share with my local VA. I am also impressed with their community care options specifically for optometry. Everytime I go to the VA and see other patients, I’m just so glad I took care of myself all these years and lead a healthy lifestyle. I look forward to being under the care of the VA.

  13. Frank Waugh    

    Just another fluff piece, nothing more,
    I have to fight every single day with this government run self serving bunch of hacks and quacks….
    I get a phone call telling me my appt has been cancelled, then in a week I get a letter stating I missed my appt…
    And that missing futher appts will stop my V.A. Benefits…..
    At Camp Lejeune for almost 2 years,and have to fight to get disability,
    Have to fight to get anything.
    I’ve been called a leech a parasite, a bum,I’ve been told to eat a bullet,
    And this is by V.A. personal,
    A continuous on going never ending nightmare…
    If this gets posted I will be shocked..

  14. Ray Hunter    

    I received both Covid vaccine injections at the Ann Arbor VA Center. I called for an appt and was scheduled the next day. Very efficient and quick.

  15. Joyce Bolin    

    Yep they getting screwed over just like the government is doing them its been over three months now since my husband has not gotten his travel pay but they still want you to show up for your appointments it’s ashamed that people could and will cheat the Veterans who fault for our country

  16. Terry Bush    

    Except for dental because I’m not eligible, I’ve enjoyed a full range of VA services for the last 18 years. I don’t have any issues, and I truly believe my health care is in better hands with VA staff than with the outside community or our local Air Force base where I’m eligible for Tri-care.

    If I need to use VHA’s local Urgent Care Center services, depending on my specific health issue, I’m usually in and out within three hours or less. The same visit would in comparison translate to in excess of five hours when visiting one of our three local hospitals.

  17. Bernard Sutton    

    I filed a claim over 3 years ago and have not received a decision. What is taking so long? All the updates that I am getting is continuously saying that they are still gathering Information. How much dam Information do you need? It is all in my medical records. Just saying that this process needs to go a little quicker. Thank you!!!

  18. Alfonza Jackson    

    That’s a lie.The Atlanta VA still isn’t seeing veterans face to face.I had a appointment on February 26,2021 and they called me saying there not doing face to face.Im glad I have insurance.Im looking for a private doctor now.

  19. Robert Wetick    

    The Covid Relief Bill provides $17 Billion to veteran services; $13.5 Billion for health care delayed, denied or made worse by lack of care. The politicians have pretty much described VA healthcare for me.

  20. douglas milby    

    Everyone has the right to voice their informed opinion, BUT, is it really necessary to use profane language that even their mother would be ashamed of. I have been receiving quality care since 1987. Some wait times but I do not pay for any thing.
    I have had to change providers at times but I have been very happy overall. I have been to Kettering, Grandview, Miami Valley, and Sycamore but I have been happiest at the VA.

  21. Robert GAWLE12    

    I have been using the VA health system for 20 years at Bay Pines Florida and West Palm Beach Florida and have had great treatment.
    Had had a couple surgeries and being treated for Lung cancer now.Have had new dentures made,skin cancer removed and maybe had to wait for travel pay but so what .If you weren’t a Vet going to the VA and was a patient at your local doctors you wouldn’t get travel pay to go to the Doctor. Get a grip people.
    WTF!!!
    I grade the VA care as far as what I have encountered an A+
    Bob Gawle
    USMC

  22. Deb Johnson    

    All of these comments above are correct. VA is not helping veterans anymore now than they did before the Mission Act. I am a female veteran who has been in pain for 2 years. I just recently, after a simple x-ray was told I need hip surgery, but have been denied because I smoke. According to the Ortho dept, I must be smoke free for 6 weeks and then prove it by having a blood test that shows no nicotine in my system. I have also been denied community care by the VA’s Community Care dept for the same reason. I have called my patient advocate’s office 3 times with NO call back and I have called the White House where they took my complaint.

    1. Katrina Lackey    

      This is NOT the truth at all. I am a female veteran 3 out of the last 4 mental health appt I have had have been CANCLED not rescheduled. It took me 2 years just to get those 2 appts. I am rated at 80%. I NEED mental health help and they are unwilling or unable and I assist. They messed me up and left me to cope ALONE. This blog is VERY false. Please speak with veterans not the VA when you decide to write a blog like this.

    2. terrie Johnston    

      Why you post a lie healthcare fir the veterans is for sht right back to taking old way of trying to get treatment out side the va has to go though a specialists to get approved i have been waiting 8 months on a referral get same excuse didnt not received the paperwork to a fax number that all the va uses no wondering why you don’t get people paperwork so quit living.

  23. Clay Allan Coker    

    Refused to post my comment, huh? The trust is gone, and refusing to allow veterans to air our grievances isn’t going to bring it back! I wonder why only 20% of eligible veterans use the VA? Because we don’t like being made to feel as if this is a favor to us. This isn’t a god damned favor. It is owed per contract! The entire history of the Veterans Administration has been one big damn breach of contract, and the American people owe more than they have to veterans for this betrayal! In a just world the American people would be in hundreds of trillions of dollars in debt after paying the fines for breach of contract!

  24. SW    

    Why won’t you post my comments??????????? This is MONDAY, so you can not lie about it being the weekend. You are nothing but a bunch of lying politicians who only want people to believe your lies and not hear the truth about the va. IF I’m wrong and I KNOW I’m not, then post my comments!

  25. SW    

    What a lie. I don’t have an option, I get farmed out to community care. And now, I don’t even get reimbursed my travel!!!! I’m treated like I’m lying about my travel to these community care appointments and my travel vouchers are “investigated” for 60 days!!!! Really! It actually takes 60 days to investigate me?????? What a crock! I do NOT want video appointments either. I want to see my providers IN PERTSON. va video connect works like crap. ALL va employees have had both of their vaccine shots so there is absolutely NO EXCUSE to keep preventing veterans from being seen IN PERSON!!!

  26. Jerry Cormier    

    Nice to hear how wonderful a job the VA is doing. I have one simple question, as a 73 year old disable vet, how do I get a Covid 19 vaccination?

    Jerry Cormier

    1. Patricia Lewis    

      At the Temple VA, a veteran can just go into get their Covid-19 vaccine. This past weekend, the Temple VA was offering drive through vaccines. Are you registered with Myhealthyvet? Once you’re registered, you can request to receive VA information through email.

    2. CC    

      Dear Mr. Cormier,

      To learn more about getting a Covid-19 vaccination through your nearest VA healthcare facility, please visit:

      https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/

      Or call your local VA to schedule an appointment.

      Thank you for your service.

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