Hoeven Announces the Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at Fargo VA Hospital

New Pilot Program Will Help Veterans Access Health Care Closer To Home

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced a new pilot program, called the Veterans Care Coordination initiative. Effective this week, veterans seeking care through the Veterans Choice Program will now be able to coordinate all of their health care needs through the Fargo Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center rather than with Health Net, a third party contractor headquartered in California.

Making the Veterans Choice Program Work for Veterans

The Veteran Choice Program (VCP) allows veterans to receive needed care from a private health care provider in their community if they have experienced unacceptable waiting times or a VA medical center is inaccessible. Working with Health Net, veterans were experiencing dropped appointments, long wait times on the phone and other obstacles to obtaining care. Health Net, which is also contracted to make provider reimbursements, was also declining or delaying payments to local providers treating veterans eligible for the Veterans Choice Act. That resulted in veterans getting payments denied and forcing them to deal with a bureaucratic appeals process.

The new Veterans Care Coordination initiative will help veterans in North Dakota and western Minnesota access care in the community when VA facilities are not available or timely. For example, Hoeven said, it’s an 800 mile round-trip drive from Williston in western North Dakota to the VA Medical Center in Fargo. In addition, providers can work with the Fargo VA to improve provider reimbursements and reduce denials of veterans’ claims.

The Veterans Care Coordination initiative grew out of a series of veterans’ listening sessions and roundtables Hoeven held around the state. Beginning nearly a year ago in Williston, he heard about a range of problems veterans were experiencing when trying to schedule and access health care through Health Net. Problems included dropped appointments, long wait times and other obstacles to getting care. He met with veterans in large cities like Fargo, Bismarck and Dickinson, as well as small communities like Bottineau and Steele, all encountering similar problems. The senator then secured a commitment from VA Secretary Bob McDonald to launch the pilot program to address the issue.

“The whole idea of the Veterans Choice Act was to ensure our veterans were receiving timely access to health-care services by allowing them to secure care locally,” Hoeven said. “However, bureaucratic delays and confusion in scheduling appointments were making access difficult for veterans in need of timely care. This new Veterans Care Coordination initiative will make scheduling easier, timelier and more responsive to the needs of our veterans, therefore improving access to care. We believe it will serve as a model to address similar scheduling issues around the country.”

“The Fargo VA Health Care System staff continuously works to meet and exceed our Veterans’ expectations,” said Lavonne Liversage, Fargo VA Health Care System Director. “This initiative will significantly improve the experience for Veterans who use the Choice program to meet their healthcare needs because the scheduling process will be done by VA staff. Our staff members are familiar with Veterans’ needs as well as the North Dakota and western Minnesota geography, and have relationships with community healthcare providers. Because of Senator Hoeven’s advocacy for Veterans and confidence in our healthcare system, we were able to re-establish this direct connection with Veterans and simplify the Choice program process.”

Attending Tuesday’s news conference in Fargo were Lavonne Liversage, Fargo VA Health Care System Director; Cheryl Andersen, Clinical Care Resource Manager; Dr. Breton Weintraub, Chief of Staff at the VA Medical Center; Lonnie Wangen, Commissioner N.D. Veteran’s Affairs; Grant Carns, Williams county Veterans Service Officer; and Dan Thorstad, Cass County VSO.

For more on the Veterans Care Coordination, click here.