Veterans Affairs Hospitals Provide Care for Military Veterans
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is part of the Veterans Affairs and runs the administration and medical programs for the VA, which includes the VA’s hospitals, medical centers, clinics, and other health care facilities. Currently, this includes at least 152 medical centers; 1,400 clinics, and more than 53,000 health care providers who work to take care of more than eight million military veterans every year.
They provide a broad variety of services, such as surgery, critical care needs, mental health care, a pharmacy system, physical therapy, radiology, and more to qualified individuals who have served in the armed forces. They can also in some facilities handle things like plastic surgery, organ transplants, cancer patients, neurological patients, and other specialties.
History of VA Hospitals
Congress has been allowing for medical care for military veterans for more than 100 years, with the first such care in 1865 with the creation of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers after the Civil War. It provided room; board and hospital care for these individuals.
Congress enacted a new system for veterans’ benefits with the start of World War I that had programs to include disability compensation, insurance, and vocational training for disabled veterans.
Then, in 1930, President Hoover initiated the Veterans Administration in order to put all veterans’ services together in one agency. Major General Paul Hawley was the first director of VA medicine, and he put out a policy to connect new Veterans Affairs hospitals with schools of medicine, as well as promoting resident and teaching fellowships at the hospitals. By the time he resigned in 1947, there were 97 VA hospitals in existence.
Starting in 1990, the VHA did a large push to improve the care given at VA facilities by expanding clinics, restructuring who was eligible for care, getting rid of unused or underused facilities, and doing a better job of holding all senior managers accountable for making sure these improvements got done.
VA Health System Has Continued to Grow
The needs of veterans have continued to grow over the years with several wars and conflicts, as well as other issues, plus there has been a large increase in the number of eligible veterans. As veterans come back from places like Iraq or Afghanistan, there is a need for more health care and more services for disabled veterans and the VA hospitals are struggling to meet those needs.
Much of that need has been in the area of mental health, and the VA hospitals have added to this service greatly since 2007. As such, nearly two billion dollars was given between 2005 and 2008 to make improvements in mental health treatment of veterans at VA hospitals and clinics.
There are also many more women veterans needing medical assistance than in the past. Women veterans are expected to increase in numbers from 1.6 million to nearly 2 million by 2020. The VA hospitals are working to find ways to meet those expected needs. Plus, they are trying to educate women veterans to use the VA hospital system, as nearly half don’t use it because they either don’t know about it or don’t know they may qualify to use it.
Who Can Use VA Hospitals and Clinics
The eligibility to use the VA hospitals is regulated by the Federal government and has eight different priority levels of veterans, with disabled veterans, retirees, and those who have gotten the Purple Heart at the top of these lists. It also goes by income level for other groups.
Veterans who don’t have a rated service-connected problem must qualify based on their financial needs, or if they have a service related condition above 50 percent rating they can be seen with no co-payments in most conditions.
If you are a veteran and need to find out if you can qualify for treatment in a VA hospital, then you should contact your local VA administration for more details.