Of Note

VA-SSA Partnership Means Faster Processes

VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative on Veterans Day that enables all Social Security disability case processing sites to receive medical records electronically from all VA facilities.

The secure process will save time and money, resulting in better service for veterans and dependents who apply for Social Security disability benefits. Both agencies will secure these savings via an automatic request through the eHealth exchange.

“VA’s partnership with Social Security will ultimately improve the quality of life for veterans and their dependents by enabling veterans to share their health information within a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin.

SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records yearly from health care organizations to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process. This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain veterans’ medical records entirely electronically.

The joint venture is expected to significantly speed up Social Security disability decisions, utilizing VA’s VLER Health Exchange under the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record. The VLER Health Exchange gives VA and participating community providers the ability to retrieve veterans’ health information from each other for the purpose of treatment.

Prior to November 11, VA already had partnership agreements with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury, and Transportation.

Rand Study Validates VA Care and Services

A new study from the Rand Corporation compared the care provided by VA with that of its private sector counterparts.

The study focused on the Department’s supply and demand capacity in the wake of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Acts of 2014, which provides veterans with the opportunity to seek health care through private providers.

The full report can be accessed and read online at www.rand.org.

In examining VA’s performance in health care procedures versus its private sector counterparts, the report found that in a tally of 83 different measures covering a variety of types of care, including safety and effectiveness of treatment, the quality of VA care exceeded that of non-VA care.

VA did its best in outpatient procedures. The report noted that the agency outperformed the private sector on 45 of those measures.

The field was more mixed when it came to inpatient procedures. VA was equal to the private sector when it came to 17 measures but scored worse on 11 measures. The agency was only better than the private sector on eight inpatient measures recorded. The report added that there was a wide variation in the level of care across VA facilities.

“Puppy with a Purpose” Showcases America’s VetDogs

America’s VetDogs, a major sponsor of recent BVA National Conventions and most notably the event’s President’s Reception, is being featured by NBC’s Today Show.

On August 22, the past convention’s official opening day, TODAY welcomed a new “Puppy with a Purpose” from America’s VetDogs.

The puppy is an 8-week-old male black Labrador Retriever named Charlie who will one day be a service dog for a veteran in need. For the next 18 months, TODAY anchors and staff will be a part of the organization’s “puppy raising team” to help Charlie become a service dog.

With the guidance of Olivia Poff, an experienced dog handler and now an America’s VetDogs guide dog mobility instructor, the TODAY team will help raise and train the puppy in NBC’s Studio 1A during the show. At the end of 18 months, the puppy will continue its formal service dog training with a certified instructor and will be matched with a disabled veteran.

“We are excited to enlist TODAY as part of our training team,” said VetDogs CEO Wells Jones. “The puppy will be exposed to an amazing variety of socialization experiences that will allow it to be comfortable and confident in just about every situation, which in turn will help a veteran to conquer his or her new challenges.”

Charlie was born June 25, 2016. While his mother, Quinta, is a black Labrador, his father, Ozzie, is a yellow Labrador. He has five sisters.

“Information for Veterans” Now Live on IRS Website

A new webpage at IRS.gov features information and hyperlinks about the different types of free tax preparation services, Earned Income Tax Credit, Financial Education and Asset Building, VA Disability Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration benefits and eBenefits, Homeless Veterans, Veteran Employment, and Suicide Prevention Awareness.

The page, located at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/information-for-veterans, was launched on July 18.

Mobile Apps Make VA More Accessible

VA has launched a number of mobile applications aimed at improving the lives of veterans by increasing their access to health care information and resources. Currently, there are 16 apps available through the Apple Store and six apps available on Android’s Google Play.

The apps help veterans manage their PTSD, pressure ulcers, preconception care, and other aspects of their health care. Many of the apps are also available for download on desktops and laptops.

VA is currently field testing an additional 11 apps that include means by which they can track their health care.

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