Governor Terry McAuliffe convened a Summit on Veterans Health Care Access on Monday, bringing together top leaders from the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, state officials and private medical providers to work together on improving the availability of services to Virginia’s nearly 800,000 veterans.
“There is no more urgent or noble cause than to honor the sacrifices these veterans and their families have made by ensuring their access to high quality health care,” Governor McAuliffe told summit participants gathered at the Virginia War Memorial. “As my team and I implement the ‘A Healthy Virginia’ access plan, we are placing a sharp focus on bringing stakeholders together and leveraging all of our state and federal resources to make sure our veterans enjoy the high standard of care they have earned.”
Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who was named Interim Under Secretary for Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs in July, was among those in attendance. She oversees the largest integrated health care system in the United States, with more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and other sites across the country.
Virginia has the fastest growing veteran population of any state in the U.S., and there are signs that the growth is straining existing resources. The Commonwealth is last in the nation in the number of VA hospitals and clinics per capita.
Participants in the summit discussed a variety of challenges confronting the VA, including:
- Growing demand for primary care and specialty services
- Recruitment and retention of providers in fast-growing metropolitan areas as well as rural regions
- Clinic space needs in Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Richmond and Hampton Roads
- Transportation limitations in rural areas
Participants in the summit discussed possible solutions that could be implemented through the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. The legislation approved by Congress promises $10 billion over three years to build partnerships with private providers with the goal of improving access to care for veterans facing significant barriers, including individuals who live 40 miles or more from a VA facility and those facing a waiting period of 30 days or more for a medical appointment. Governor McAuliffe’s “A Healthy Virginia” plan makes drawing down federal resources to expand access to care for veterans a top priority.
“I am confident that by working together, we can find creative, effective solutions to veterans’ access challenges,” Governor McAuliffe said. “It is inexcusable for our Commonwealth to be ranked last in the number of veterans hospitals and clinics per capita. I am committed to solving that problem and making Virginia the model for the entire nation in how the VA and the private sector can partner effectively to help our veterans.”
“This is a pivotal moment,” said Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John Harvey. “It is our duty to make sure this legislation generates positive benefits for Virginia’s veterans.”
“We have a responsibility to make sure these brave men and women have the best health care available,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel. “I am proud that Virginia is taking a leading role in this national effort.”
Three regional officials from the VA also participated in the summit. They are:
- Dan Hoffmann, Network Director of the Veterans Integrated Service Network 6, covering North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
- Fernando O. Rivera, VISN 5, covering D.C., Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia
- John Patrick, VISN 9, covering Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.