News from our VA

We are pleased to announce that Ms. Gail Graham has been named Medical Center Director for VA Central Iowa Health Care System, and will be on site beginning July 13, 2016. Ms. Graham recently served as the Acting Director of the El Paso VA Health Care System since June 2015 and served as the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health (ADUSH) for Informatics and Analytics. 
Please join us in welcoming Ms. Graham to VA Central Iowa HCS!
Meet Walt! Walter Ohannessian is an Inventory Manager in our Logistics Service Line. He has been at VACIHCS for seven years and enjoys serving his fellow Veterans. Walt served honorably for 33 years in the military and takes great pride in his job, which impacts both staff and Veterans. On his days off, Walt enjoys woodworking and camping. Thank you Walt for all that you do!
Meet Marlene! Marlene Brown is a proud Army Veteran and a dedicated nurse on our Medical/Surgical Unit. Marlene takes great pride in caring for Central Iowa Veterans and putting a smile on their faces, along with their loved ones as they stay with us recovering. Marlene comes to us from the Iowa Army National Guard with deployment experience in Iraq. Marlene also recently earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from William Penn. We are lucky to have such a devoted and passionate nurse who can relate to the Veteran experience!
Meet Tom! Thomas Riesenberg is a Health Technician in the Carroll CBOC. Tom has enjoyed working for the VA for the last five years and is especially connected with the Veterans as an Air Force medic of 26 years. Tom believes this is a natural extension of his military career and his continued pride shows! Outside of work, you can find Tom visiting Veterans in nursing homes and playing cards and spending time with his family. Thank you Tom for your continued service!
It's time to get moving! Mark your calendar to join us for the 6th Annual VA2K Walk and Roll Event on May 18th at VACIHCS in the main lobby and outside from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's fun and free, and also helps to support homeless Veterans! Learn more about how you can help here:
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         
April 8, 2016
Top VA Health Care Official Announces Initiatives and Progress Made
to Improve Access to Care
New Initiatives Chart Roadmap to Access-to-Care Improvements
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) top health care official today announced progress and new steps VA is taking to improve Veterans access to health care. Dr. David J. Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health, announced the measures during a briefing to a group of more than 100 journalists attending the Association of Health Care Journalists’ conference April 8 in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We are working to rebuild the trust of the American public and more importantly the trust of the Veterans whom we are proud to serve,” said Dr. Shulkin. “We are taking action and are seeing the results. We are serious about our work to improve access to health care for our nation’s Veterans. We want them to know that this is a new VA.”

During the briefing, Dr Shulkin‎ discussed a new initiative, MyVA Access. MyVA Access represents a major shift for VA by putting Veterans more in control of how they receive their health care. It is a top priority for VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

MyVA Access is a declaration from VHA employees to the Veterans they care for; it is a call to action and the reaffirmation of the core mission to provide quality care to Veterans, and to offer that care as soon as possible to Veterans how and where they desire to receive that care. The initiative ensures that the entire VA health care system is engaged in the transformation of VA into a Veteran-centered service organization, incorporating aspirational goals such as same day access to mental health and primary care services for Veterans when it is medically necessary. At present, 34 VA facilities offer same-day appointments, and as a practicing physician, Dr. Shulkin currently sees Veterans needing same-day appointments at the VA Medical Center in Manhattan. VA is hoping to be able to offer same day appointments when it is medically necessary at all of its medical centers by the end of 2016.

In addition, Dr. Shulkin introduced a new smart phone app called the Veteran Appointment Request App. This app allows Veterans to view, schedule and cancel primary care and mental health appointments as well as track the status of the appointment request and review upcoming appointments. It is currently available in 10 locations and has received positive feedback from the vast majority of Veterans using the app. VA expects to make the app available to all Veterans by early 2017.

Other efforts underway include a website enhancement that will allow Veterans to check wait times in real time where ever they live – this includes new and existing patients and a new, easy-to-use scheduling software program. The new program is being piloted in 10 sites and is expected to reduce scheduling errors and enhance VA’s ability to measure and track supply, demand and usage.

MyVA Access is part of MyVA, introduced in 2014 by VA Secretary Robert McDonald following one of the most challenging times in the history of VA. MyVA is centered around the needs of Veterans by putting them first in everything VA does. Since that time, VA has made significant progress in addition to the new initiatives announced by Dr. Shulkin.

Among the health care progress made:
-  Nationally, VA completed more than 57.36 million appointments from March 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016. This represents an increase of 1.6 million more appointments than were completed during the same time period in 2014/2015.
-   VHA and Choice contractors created over 3 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector from February 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016.  This represents a 12 percent increase in authorizations when compared to the same period in 2014/2015.  
-   From FY 2014 to FY 2015, Community Care appointments increased approximately 20 percent from 17.7 million in FY 2014 to 21.3 million in FY 2015.
-   VA completed 96.46 percent of appointments in February 2016 within 30 days of clinically indicated or Veteran’s preferred date.
   In FY 2015, VA activated 2.2 million square feet of space for clinical, mental health, long-term care, and associated support facilities to care for Veterans.
-   VA held two Access Stand Downs, focusing on patients with the most urgent health care needs first. During a nationwide Access Stand Down that took place on February 27, the one-day event resulted in VA reviewing the records of more than 80,000 Veterans to get those waiting for urgent care off wait lists; 93 percent of Veterans waiting for urgent care were contacted, with many receiving earlier appointments.
-   VA increased its total clinical work (direct patient care) by 10 percent over the last two years as measured by private sector standards (relative value units). This increase translates to roughly 20 million additional provider hours of care for our Veterans.
-   VA is also working to increase clinical staff, add space and locations in areas where demand is increasing and extending clinic hours into nights and weekends, all of which have helped increase access to care even as demand for services increases.
-   VA is addressing critical components necessary for the delivery of a seamless community care experience by consolidating all purchased care programs into one Veterans Choice Program (New VCP). The New VCP will clarify eligibility requirements, strengthen VA’s high-performing network, streamline clinical and administrative processes, and implement a care coordination model across the continuum of care.
-   VHA offers an extensive community provider network of over 257,000 providers through the PC3/Choice Programs and more are joining each month.
-   VA Telehealth services are critical to expanding access to VA care in more than 45 clinical areas.
-   In FY2015, 12 percent of all Veterans enrolled for VA care received Telehealth based care. This includes 2.14 million telehealth visits, touching 677,000 Veterans.
Meet Emmett! Emmett Phillips is a Mental Health Rehabilitation Technician, serving our Veterans in the Domiciliary. Emmett joined the VA in 1997 after serving in the Army as a Combat Medic. With 23 years of federal service, Emmett has held numerous positions, has volunteered with VACIHCS Special Emphasis Committees, and now enjoys serving fellow Veterans in the residential treatment environment. Outside of work, Emmett is a proud military family man and volunteers his time helping challenged youth relocate in Des Moines from his native country of Liberia. Thank you Emmett for sharing your passion for serving this great nation with Central Iowa Veterans!
Please note that as of April 4, 2016, fasting labs will be the exception and NOT the rule for all Veterans, including Diabetics and Veterans with high cholesterol. Fasting has been something that has always been done. Research shows that it is not always needed. There will be occassional times that your provider will still want you to fast. You will be notified of this by a red FASTING stamp on your appointment letter. If the stamp is not on your appointment letter, you will NOT need to fast.
These changes should make afternoon appointments more attractive, which will help lessen the amount of Veterans at the facility in the mornings. This will improve the flow through phlebotomy, improve the processing time of labs, and have a positive effect on parking. Most importantly, we hope that this change will help improve Veteran satisfaction with the Primary Care Clinics ability to provide you service.
Please ask your PACT team if you have any questions about this change
Another great concert at VA Central Iowa! Kat Daddy 55 comes every month to entertain the veterans and the veterans love his old country and rock and roll music. Thanks Kat Daddy 55!
Meet Bennie! Bennie L. Oliphant is a clinical certified Chaplain by the National Association of Veterans Affairs Chaplains (NAVAC) with a post graduate degree in theology. Bennie comes to VACIHCS after serving at two VA Medical Centers in Michigan. Chaplain Bennie serves as a Protestant Staff Chaplain with a primary focus in Palliative and Hospice Care. His favorite thing about working here is providing active, compassionate, empathic listening as Veterans share their stories, many times at the end of their lives. After work he can be found unwinding at one of our many local golf courses. We are lucky to have Bennie and our entire compassionate Chaplain team to serve Central Iowa Veterans!
Vietnam Veteran Commemoration

Thank you to everyone who attended the Vietnam Veteran Commemoration and Town Hall, held at the VACIHCS Main Campus on March 29th, 2016. This event was cohosted by VA Central Iowa Health Care System and the Des Moines Regional Office, as a way to honor the Veterans who bravely served during the Vietnam Era. A nice program was put on and Dan Gannon, Vietnam Veteran and Commissioner, shared his remarks as guest speaker. Leadership were given the opportunity to present Commemorative pins to over 70 Vietnam Veterans that day and we look forward to hosting more events in the future. We are ordering more pins and will be having more opportunities to receive them.  In the meantime, please join our Commemorative Partners on May 6th for the Vietnam Veteran Recognition Day at the Capital and on April 23rd for the Faces of Agent Orange Symposium, also in Des Moines. Vietnam Veterans - thank you for your service and thank you for attending! We are proud to serve you