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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

VA Begins Major Expansion of Outpatient Services

From the VA:

World-Class Health Care Brought Closer to More Veterans

WASHINGTON – Veterans will have easier access to world-class health care under a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plan to open 31 new outpatient clinics in 16 states. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake announced [on December 4, 2008 the] VA will establish new clinics in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont. ...

With 153 hospitals and about 745 community-based clinics, VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country. VA’s medical care budget of more than $41 billion this year will provide health care to about 5.8 million people during nearly 600,000 hospitalizations and more than 62 million outpatient visits.

“Community-based medicine is better medicine,” said Dr. Michael Kussman, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “It makes preventative care easier for patients, helps health care professionals have closer relationships with their patients and permits easier follow-ups for patients with chronic health problems.”

The community-based outpatient clinics, or CBOCs, will become operational by late 2010, with some opening in 2009. Local VA officials will keep communities and their veterans informed of milestones in the creation of the new CBOCs.

Full list of proposed VA outpatient clinics.

The VA and the State of Louisiana also "jointly announced the selection of adjacent downtown sites for construction of their replacement medical center projects. The two projects, called the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Louisiana State University Academic Medical Center, restore greatly needed health care capability lost in New Orleans during flooding after Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005."

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

On November 17, 2008, a new travel reimbursement rate went into effect aiming to ease the financial burden placed on veterans who currently have far distances to travel to access VA health care services:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that eligible veterans will see an increase in the mileage reimbursement they receive for travel to VA facilities for medical care. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake announced today that he will use his authority to raise the mileage reimbursement from the 28.5 cents per mile to 41.5 cents per mile for all eligible veterans.

“We owe it to our veterans to give them the best care possible,” said Peake. “The increase will once again provide assistance to our veterans, especially in these difficult economic times, to help offset gasoline costs and to assist veterans with access to the VA’s world-class health system.”

Congress, which mandates such increases, recently provided funding to VA to increase the reimbursement rate, which goes into effect on November 17, 2008. Service connected veterans, veterans receiving VA pensions, and veterans with low incomes are eligible for the reimbursement. ...

While increasing the payment, the current deductible amounts applied to certain mileage reimbursements will remain frozen at $7.77 for a one way trip, $15.54 for a round trip, and capped at a maximum of $46.62 per calendar month. On January 9, 2009, these deductibles will decrease to $3 for a one way trip, $6 for a round trip, with a maximum of $18 per calendar month. Deductibles can be waived if they cause a financial hardship to the veteran.

And for anyone not able to travel to the nearest VA, a new program kicked off at the end of October 2008, and continues to roll out -- possibly to a town near you:

The first of a fleet of 50 new mobile counseling centers for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Center program was put into service today with the remainder scheduled to be activated over the next three months.

Our widespread distribution of this fleet from coast to coast marks a new chapter in VA's innovation to reach rural and underserved veterans with high-quality readjustment counseling,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. Each vehicle will be assigned to one of VA's existing Vet Centers, enabling the center to improve access to counseling by bringing services closer to veterans.

The 38-foot motor coaches, which have spaces for confidential counseling, will carry Vet Center counselors and outreach workers to events and activities to reach veterans in broad geographic areas, supplementing VA's 232 current Vet Centers, which are scheduled to increase to 271 facilities by the end of 2009.

Vet Centers, operated by VA's Readjustment Counseling Service, provide non-medical readjustment counseling in easily accessible, consumer-oriented facilities, addressing the social and economic dimensions of post-war needs. This includes psychological counseling for traumatic military-related experiences and family counseling when needed for the veteran’s readjustment.

The team leader at each Vet Center will develop an outreach plan for use of the vehicle within that region, not being limited to the traditional catchment area of a particular Vet Center.

These vehicles will be used to provide outreach and direct readjustment counseling at active-duty, reserve and National Guard activities, including post-deployment health reassessments for returning combat service members.

The vehicles will also be used to visit events typically staffed by local Vet Center staff, including homeless "stand downs," veteran community events, county fairs, and unit reunions at sites ranging from Native American reservations to colleges.

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