Health Care Benefits Eligibility
Veteran Healthcare Access
Rural Michigan veterans spend excessive time, money, and resources traveling to VA medical centers in urban areas. Rural military veterans find themselves in a unique situation when attempting to access healthcare through their earned Veterans Administration benefit. While the average American citizen travels approximately 30 miles round trip to receive specialty care, rural Northern Michigan veterans seeking VA Healthcare are directed to travel an average of 320 miles round trip to receive care. Northern Michigan veterans make over 8,000 annual, much-needed visits to urban area VA Hospitals, outside of their local hospitals service area. We believe:
- The burden of travel, time, and expense borne by our rural veterans to receive their earned VA healthcare benefits is, in most cases, unacceptable.
- Our local hospitals and healthcare providers know and understand their community members and can provide the majority of their healthcare needs locally.
- Lost time and expense reduce veteran's productivity and reduce the financial resources normally spent within their rural community.
Veteran Healthcare Considerations
Our rural veterans deserve the same considerations as their urban veteran brothers and sisters when it comes to healthcare. This practice of driving great distances for care has gone on for many years, forcing a multitude of WWII, Korean, and Vietnam era veterans to travel thousands of miles over their lifetime. We believe the next generation of rural veterans needs relief from traveling the same road until they can no longer physically travel such burdensome distances. Efficient, effective and convenient healthcare provided in the proximity of a veteran's community of residence not only reduces unnecessary time and travel burdens on the veteran and their families, but it also equalizes the healthcare benefit for rural veterans. With the assistance of local VA resources and community healthcare providers, the burden of travel and time lost does not have to be borne by the rural Veterans themselves.
Partnering with the VA
Partnering with the Veterans Administration to deliver rural veterans healthcare is essential for success. We believe that without a combined community effort of the VA, local healthcare providers, and community members, rural veterans' healthcare will not be successful. We believe that the VA should administer Veteran Healthcare, but in many instances, the best care will be provided by a local caregiver. Currently, the VA does not have these authorities in the Choice program. In the next round of VA program development, we must address this administration gap for rural veterans. We continue to support the efforts of our Northern Michigan VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) and we believe an integrated coordinated care program, administered locally by our CBOCs, is essential to delivering specialty care to our rural veterans. For these reasons, we support:
- The expansion of CBOCs healthcare and administrative service capabilities.
- Increase the CBOCs care decision-making and resource allocation authorities.
- Increase and improve the CBOCs integration into the local healthcare system.
Veteran Healthcare Goal
Our goal for rural northern Michigan veteran's healthcare is to establish a rural Michigan pilot program to improve streamlined veteran access and timeliness to healthcare through increased access to local healthcare providers. Our objectives are to:
- Establish strong community provider support for local veteran care.
- Advocate for the establishment of a regional rural medical healthcare public/private steering committee.
- Advocate for the rapid adequate reimbursement for local medical providers.
- Advocate for the reduced windshield time for veteran patients.
- Advocate for establishment of VA OMBUDSMAN position to facilitate veteran-centric health decisions.
- Enhance programs that support local auditory and optical treatment.
- Provide relevant data to support future decision-making.
- Develop a cooperative and collaborative partnership with the VA and with local medical providers.
- Advocate for the delivery of next generation medical technology in the rural environment.