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VA Health care when outside home (VISN) Veteran Integrated Service Network.
Old 01-07-2016, 09:37 PM   #1
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VA Health care when outside home (VISN) Veteran Integrated Service Network.

Question for any Veterans who may have experience in this area. I live in Idaho so am enrolled in VISN 20 which covers Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Washington. However we travel with our RV a lot and stay for extended amounts of time. Recently had to have emergency medical service in a different VISN (Montana) and boy was it a hassle. Found out if you are not enrolled in a particular VISN then they have no records of you and getting service, or getting them to pay for emergency service at a non VA facility is really frustrating. There are 19 different VISN's in the US. They are administrative units that evidently operate independently of each other.
We are going to be spending months in three other VISN's next year. How do I enroll in these other VISN's so I can get medical care if needed when traveling there.

Any other Veterans out there have experience with getting VA health care when traveling outside your home area? Was It a hassle? Have you gone to a VA hospital or Clinic outside your home VISN and tried to get medical help? Were you able to see a provider when you just walked in? How do you deal with all the different VISN administrative areas?

And the above questions don't even get into the pre authorization hassle that comes from all these different VISN's and no central number to call to ask for pre authorization. That would take a whole new thread to explain and explore.

Anyone have actual experience navigating this confusing system?

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Old 01-07-2016, 09:39 PM   #2
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:52 PM   #3
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Sorry, I have no words of wisdom for you. But that is a ridiculous setup. It sure looks like a means to create 19 sets of SES jobs together with all their staffs, 19 independent IT hierarchies, etc.
What is this, 1950? Can't we communicate and share data across the continent virtually for free? Why 19 independent kingdoms?

Best of luck.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:01 PM   #4
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I don't want people to the think I am bitching about VA health care. At my local hospital and clinic I am very satisfied with the actual health care I have received. I just can't believe the bureaucracy involved in the VA system and how hard it is to jump through all their administrative hoops.

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Old 01-08-2016, 05:56 AM   #5
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I don't know the answer to your specific questions either, but it appears that at least the new Secretary is aware of the problem.

On January 26, 2015, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald revealed a plan to restructure the 21 VISNs to better align services for veterans. So what exactly will that entail? For starters, many VISN boundaries will need to be redrawn, but the VISNs are not going away any time soon. Instead, organizations and services within the VA will begin work to ensure their structures are aligned with the 5-region framework by the end of June 2015.
The 5-regions alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into a single regional framework to enhance internal coordination, a problem VA has admitted publicly since the initial wait time scandal was brought to the publicís attention last spring.
VHA Clarifies VISN Restructuring Plan
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Old 01-08-2016, 06:43 AM   #6
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Interesting situation to look into. DW and I are both military retiree's. DD is a junior in college and therefore still covered under our tri care for life. When we have needed medical service outside of our Tricare area we just call a 1-800 number and get approval. We have done this aprox 10 times in the last 25 years. Never an issue. The only interaction we have had with the VA is during our exit from active duty they reviewed our medical records for any possible service related disabilities. This VISN stuff is all news to me. DW and I will be researching this topic over the weekend. Good luck.
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Old 01-08-2016, 06:49 AM   #7
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I use the VA healthcare system in Minneapolis. I concur, it is pretty good.

From what I understand, you can get reimbursed for emergency medical care at any private hospital.

VA may pay for your non-VA emergency care for treatment of a Nonservice-connected condition if all of the following conditions are met:
  • The episode of care cannot be paid under another VA authority, and
  • Based on an average knowledge of health and medicine (prudent layperson standard) you reasonably expected that delay in seeking immediate medical attention would have been hazardous to your life or health, and
  • A VA or other Federal facility/provider was not feasibly available, and
  • You received VA medical care within a 24-month period preceding the non-VA emergency care, and
  • You are financially liable to the health care provider for the emergency care, and
  • The services were furnished by an Emergency Department or similar facility held out to provide emergency care to the general public, and
  • You have no other coverage under a health plan (including Medicare, Medicaid and Worker’s Compensation), and
  • You have no contractual or legal recourse against a third party that would, in whole, extinguish your liability

How this list works in reality, I am not sure. It does say MAY, not SHALL. I am going to buy a bronze policy, just in case.

A veteran should be entitled to the best platinum healthcare plan out there, with $0 cost and $0 deductible.
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Old 01-08-2016, 09:09 AM   #8
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We did get the VA to pay for emergency health care at a non VA Facility in West Yellowstone MT. At least they say they will pay, has not actually happened yet. Took six months of communication with them. They always claimed they would pay but always seemed to loose the paperwork. Latest excuse was since I was not enrolled in that VISN (my home enrollment being a different VISN) there was no file to attach the paperwork to. They always said this like it was my fault and I would explain to them I had no control over how their computer system worked. They were always really nice but just never got the issue solved. I fear the system is just so bureaucratically heavy that it waisting taxpayers money through duplication of administrative functions and seems to be set up to frustrate veterans to a point they just gave up and paid the bills themselves to avoid the hassle. Hope I am wrong and it is just bureaucracy protecting their own piece of turf as others have mentioned. Sure hope the VA can improve its overall efficiency with some changes some of you mentioned, but have to admit I am not holding my breath.

Still hopping to hear from a Vet who has used VA Healthcare successfully while traveling to see what their experience has been.

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Old 01-08-2016, 09:20 AM   #9
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I know this was a hassle for my FIL. He was wheelchair bound and spent part of the year in our granny flat (California) and part of the year in Kentucky where the in-laws owned a home. We tried to cluster the medical services to the months he was here because the quality of service was better at our local VA vs the one near their house. But - his decline in health at the end of his life happened in KY - so again, we had to transfer his records back there. For the 5+ years he lived in two different areas - we only transferred his records back to KY twice - because situations happened when he was there.

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