Survey Examines NYS Community Providers’ Ability to Care for Veterans

A recent survey of New York State health providers conducted by The Rand Corporation shows that those who are treating the 800,000 veterans who live in the state are willing to care for them but find themselves unfamiliar with the military culture and the health effects on veterans as a result of their wartime experiences.

The providers who were surveyed noted that they try to provide access to medical care to veterans in a timely manner. Of those responding, 62.6% of providers can see a new patient within one to two weeks and 72.7% of existing patients were able to get an appointment within the same timeframe. For patients requesting same-day appointments, 31.6% of practices said they were able to accommodate that request for almost all patients.

When asked why veterans seek care from community centers rather than from VA facilities, providers said the top five reasons were that they already have a relationship with the providers, the centers provide better care, the providers have more expertise, access to specialty care at the VA is limited, and the close proximity of the center to the veteran.

Based on their experience with the VA, providers gave the agency’s health care system low marks. Only 24.6% of the providers who were surveyed thought the VA health care system satisfactorily meets the veterans’ health care needs, 28% believed VA provides high-quality health care services, and 16.9% thought the VA provides the veterans’ health care in a timely manner.

A majority of the providers surveyed believed they were “somewhat” or “well prepared” to care for veterans with major health issues. Sixty percent thought they could handle veterans with severe mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Other issues they believed they could handle included depression (76%), PTSD (67%), anxiety, social phobia and personality disorders (79%), alcohol and drug use (73%), risk factors for suicide (72%), concussions and traumatic brain injury (61%) and hearing loss (55%). However, only 26% would be able to handle veterans suffering from exposures from dioxin (which is found in Agent Orange), smoke from “burn pits,” benzene and uranium.

One of the challenges to these providers is understanding the veteran’s needs and the military culture. Only 5.4% had any military service. Although 27.7% of the providers received training in a VA hospital, and 22.2% worked in a VA facility, 70% were unfamiliar with military rank structure, 75% had no understanding of the different military branches, 81% did not understand military slang and terminology, 55% were unaware how behavior at wartime can negatively impact home life, and 78% were unable to understand specific health care needs of women veterans. Also, 39.8% of those surveyed did not know how to refer a patient to VA.

“While our analysis found that most health care providers in New York report being able to provide timely care and follow clinical practice guidelines, we discovered that most also know little about the military or veterans, are not routinely screening for conditions common among veterans, and are unfamiliar with VA initiatives to expand access to community-based care for VA-enrolled veterans,” the study’s authors wrote.

If you are a veteran and have been denied access to care or disability benefits, it is important to contact an experienced VA lawyer who may assist you in obtaining the benefits you deserve. The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP concentrate their practice in Veterans Disability Law Social Security Disability Law. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office.

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