Changes to Veterans’ programs can often lead to temporary confusion among home care providers. Messaging at the local and the federal levels can appear conflicting, which only serves to raise more questions. We hope to clarify some of the confusion and provide insight into the changes and what impact they might have on caring for Veterans.
You may recall that in October of 2018 the VA passed new regulations that positively affect those of us who work to provide quality home care to Veterans who need it. The most recent changes are separate from this and do not affect those new regulations.
The idea behind all of these changes, including the new VA MISSION Act, is to make health care and home care services more accessible for those who need them most. These new laws and rulings provide a clearer path for treating Veterans with the care and dignity they deserve.
At Veterans Care Coordination, we deal exclusively with Veterans in need of home care who may be eligible for the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit. Since this benefit is not directly tied to the most recent changes taking place, we thought some clarity may help to ensure Veterans and care providers alike can make the most of the resources available to them.
The VA MISSION Act
On June 6, 2018, President Trump signed the VA MISSION (Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks) Act, which begins to go into effect June 6thof this year. Along with consolidating VA community care programs into the new Community Care Network, this act is designed to expand program coverage, allow the VA to better align its infrastructure with Veteran needs, and strengthen the VA’s ability to recruit and retain quality health care professionals.
Homemaker/home health aid services beyond what the VA offers have historically been accessed by Veterans via agreements between the care providers and their local VA. As we understand it, some of these agreements will eventually become null and void and others will simply transition to the new Community Care Network. Under the MISSION Act, VA’s Community Care Network will eventually pool skilled health care and home care providers into six regions. Each regional network serves as the contract vehicle for VA to purchase care in the community.
It’s worth mentioning again that the networks and agreements affected by the VA MISSION Act are separate and apart from the VA Pension with Aid & Attendance benefit. Very few of the referrals home care providers receive directly from the VA utilize the Pension with Aid & Attendance benefit. In fact, many of the referrals a home care provider receives may also be eligible for additional funds through the Pension with Aid & Attendance benefit and may not even know it.
The Community Care Network
As part of the VA MISSION Act, VA is introducing the Community Care Network. Providers who were part of the VA Choice Network or have agreements in place with their local VA office may need to take action in order to sign up for, or transition to, the new Community Care Network. New paperwork, applications, or agreements may be necessary. You can find more information about the changes on the VA website.
The VA refers patients to home care agencies in the network. Waiting lists that are controlled on a hospital or local or state government level, and unknown payment terms can make it difficult for home care agencies to enter into that network. While we anticipate that these challenges may improve with the new changes, we encourage you to connect with VA to ensure a smooth transition into the new network.
Payment for Care
Agreements and services within the Community Care Network function differently than the benefits from the VA Pension with Aid & Attendance. With the Community Care Network, fees are paid by the VA directly to the home care agency which bills the VA for services provided. Third party administrators handle care of Veterans, and it’s the responsibility of the home care providers to be sure they are signed up and can continue to receive referrals and be compensated for care.
The VA Pension w/ Aid and Attendance benefit is secured by the Veteran and paid directly to the Veteran. With this benefit, it’s the Veteran’s responsibility to apply with the VA, establish care, handle payment for services, and maintain eligibility.
The Opportunity at Hand
The opportunity for home care providers to serve our nation’s heroes has never been better. The VA MISSION Act should prove to be yet another step toward making quality care more accessible to the Veterans who need it. And again, keep in mind that the transition to VA’s new Community Care Network does not affect any Veteran’s utilization of the Pension with Aid & Attendance benefit, which is also more accessible than ever before. Veterans can use these funds in addition to any services or agreements you may have in place with the VA.
If you have questions or are in need of assistance with the VA Pension, please call 1-855-380-4440 to speak with the knowledgeable and friendly staff at Veterans Care Coordination™.