Photograph courtesy of the VA.

Photograph courtesy of the VA.

 

By:Dr. David J. Shulkin is Under Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Every day at VA, we try new approaches to work smarter so that we can meet Veterans’ changing health care needs while drawing closer to achieving VA’s goal to deliver world-class health care to Veterans.

On October 30, 2015, VA delivered to Congress the department’s Plan to Consolidate Community Care Programs, its vision for the future outlining improvements for how VA will deliver health care to Veterans.  The plan outlines VA’s approach to adapt and evolve to meet the health care need of Veterans in the community. It is VA’s response to the bill passed in July 2015 after VA sought the opportunity to consolidate its multiple care in the community authorities and programs.  The plan seeks to consolidate and streamline existing community care programs into an integrated care delivery system and enhance the way VA partners with other federal health care providers, academic affiliates and community providers.  It simplifies community care and gives more Veterans access to the best care anywhere through a high performing network that keeps Veterans at the center of care.

VA is working with our partners in Congress to ensure VHA receives funding and authorities necessary to move forward with this plan. VA recognizes the problems happening right now.  The plan describes how we think VA can fix the problem and serves as a place where we can start discussions to define the future state of VA community care.

The plan strives to make it easier for Veterans and community providers to know how and when a Veteran can access community care. We are asking Congress to support these proposed changes so VA can increase Veterans’ access to care in the community and make it easier for community providers to help us in our goal.  We understand that a change of this size will take long-term commitment and support from our partners, like you. In the interim, VA continues to operate existing community care programs, including the Choice Program, while we also make improvements to access. VA reaffirms its long-term commitment to continually working to make improvements and plans to implement any congressionally approved changes gradually, responsibly, and transparently.

To learn more, go to http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/VA_Community_Care_Report_11_03_2015.pdf to access the full report submitted to Congress.