Changes – for the better
“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” Walt Disney famously said those words many decades ago.
As I found myself in the Magic Kingdom last month, waiting in line – in the rain – to ride TRON Lightcycle / Run (my teenagers said it was definitely worth the wait), this quote dawned on me for all the change that occurred, is occurring, and most certainly will continue to occur within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Change isn’t bad. It’s frustrating; it’s an adjustment; and, yes, it’s sometimes inconvenient. But the five changes I’m going to share with you today are for the better. They’re improvements and adaptations and are integral to offering the best health care to veterans.
1. Overnight fasting is no longer required for most blood testing at VA medical centers and outpatient clinics.
Most routine blood tests, including those for managing high cholesterol and diabetes, no longer require overnight fasting for the results to be accurate.
VA medical centers will implement this new policy on their own timetables; however, all clinics in the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (VA ECHCS) have already made the shift. Some laboratory testing situations still require overnight fasting, such as diagnosing Diabetes Mellitus or uncommonly ordered clinical tests, and veterans are always encouraged to speak with their health care provider if they have any questions.
2. On June 5, VA announced the appointment of Mrs. Sunaina Kumar-Giebel, as director of the VA Rocky Mountain Network (Veterans Integrated Service Network [VISN] 19).
Mrs. Kumar-Giebel will oversee delivery of health care services to more than 1,000,000 eligible Veterans, an operating budget of more than $5 billion, and leadership of 20,000 employees.
VISN 19 serves as the operational headquarters over eight health care systems in our region, three of which serve all Colorado veterans: VA ECHCS, VA Western Colorado Health Care System (based in Grand Junction) and Cheyenne VA Health Care System (based in Wyoming and serves veterans in northeast Colorado).
3. Do you file travel pay claims for VA health care? On June 9, VA returned to pre-COVID Beneficiary Travel Self Service System (BTSSS) standards for filing deadlines.
This means that claims for beneficiary travel reimbursement must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the appointment, otherwise VA will deny the claim.
Veterans are asked to please remember that proof of attendance is required for all community care claims. This sometimes occurs when non-VA care providers do not return medical records in a timely fashion, so please ask the provider to do so without delay.
For more information or questions, please contact the VA ECHCS Beneficiary Travel Department at (720) 857-5421.
4. The Million Veteran Program (MVP) is close to enrolling one million veterans, as the name suggests.
MVP is VA’s largest research effort to improve health care for veterans and one of the world’s largest research programs on genes and health. The goal is to one day give veterans specialized care based on their genes, lifestyle, military experiences, and exposures. Zaneta Adams is one of nearly 100,000 women veterans enrolled in MVP. Check out her powerful testimony at https://youtu.be/o5aVmJBntDQ.
Veterans can join me and participate by enrolling online at www.mvp.va.gov or call 866-441-6075. They’re less than 50,000 Veterans away from the historic million veteran milestone!
5. Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act filing deadline is nearing.
I know I’ve addressed this before (Behind Friendly Lines, November 2022), but it bears repeating. Veterans who apply for PACT Act-related benefits before Aug. 10, 2023, could have benefits backdated to Aug. 10, 2022—the day the bill was signed.
If you have yet to file a claim for PACT Act benefits, the El Paso County Veterans Service Office and VA will host a PACT Act Stand Down from Aug. 7-9 (just before the deadline ends). Visit https://www.va.gov/outreach-and-events/events/56105/ for more information. Can’t make the event? You can also file a claim online directly with VA by visiting www.va.gov.
Let me break this down for you in dollars and cents, courtesy of Dustin Senger, deputy public affairs officer at VAECHCS. If a veteran with a spouse and two children receives a 60-percent rating for a service-connected condition, one year of backdated benefits may total almost $20,000. That lump sum payment could help the veteran buy a first home, pay off accumulated debt, etc.
There you have it; five updates about veteran health care you need to know. I started with a Walt Disney quote, and I’ll end with one from his most popular character, Mickey Mouse: “See ya, real soon!” (as in, next month).
Thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.