4 Tips to Help Navigate the VA System
Many of the seniors we work with here at Cariloop are veterans, and most of them are using the VA system for at least part of their care. It is a confusing, slow and unresponsive system that can be extremely frustrating to deal with. However, it’s also a valuable resource with some important benefits, so it’s worth taking the time to get to know how it works.
Although these four tips to navigate the VA system will not eliminate the delays or voluminous paperwork involved in getting care through the VA, they can help shave off a little time here and there and make your life a little bit easier.
Use My HealtheVet secure messenger to talk to your physician.
If you are already receiving services through the VA and just have a question or need a new appointment or a medication refill, then take advantage of My HealtheVet. My HealtheVet is the VA’s online personal health record, designed for Veterans and active duty servicemembers as well as their dependents and caregivers.
If you sign up for a premium account, you will get access to some information in your VA and/or DoD records—including key portions of your veteran’s VA health record such as allergies, appointments, laboratory results and more. At the time of registration, identity verification is required.
Every VA clinic has a My HealtheVet coordinator and most staff can help you if you run into any technical problems. You can learn more about the services My HealtheVet offers and get started by registering for an account on their official website.
Request an appointment first thing in the morning or immediately following lunch.
Despite the overwhelming demand for care, VA doctors are not bound by quotas to see as many patients as possible. They focus on quality visits. They tend to run over their scheduled times, often sacrificing their lunch breaks. Scheduling an appointment first thing in the morning or right away after lunch is a trick to improve the likelihood that you will be seen on time. It also makes it easy for you to arrive early and give yourself plenty of travel time.
Consider going to a different VA clinic.
While most VA patients use the same VA clinic for all of their care, it is not a requirement. Not all VA clinics have the same quality of care, see the same number of patients or have similar wait times. So, shop around if you are not satisfied with your current clinic. It may be worth your time to drive to a clinic that is farther away but has shorter wait times and a better quality of care.
Utilize your local Veteran Service Organizations.
Local Veteran Service Organizations are advocacy agencies that can assist veterans in several ways. VSOs can help troubleshoot and resolve problems for your veteran—it’s never a bad idea to contact your local VSO if your veteran is experiencing a problem. You can find VSOs near you in the Directory of Veterans Service Organizations. As with the clinics, VSO responsiveness and wait times may vary, so feel free to shop around until you find one that meets your needs.
If you continue to have trouble navigating the VA system, Cariloop’s Healthcare Coaches can help walk with you and advocate for you through the process.
By Julie Coats, LBSW, CCM