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Nevedal AL, Wong EP, Urech TH, Peppiatt JL, Sorie MR, Vashi AA. Veterans' Experiences With Accessing Community Emergency Care. Military medicine. 2023 Jan 4; 188(1-2):e58-e64.
INTRODUCTION: Under current regulations, there are three separate authorities for which the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can pay for emergency medical care received by Veterans in the community. The three VHA authorities have overlapping criteria and eligibility requirements that contribute to a complex and confusing landscape for Veterans when they obtain emergency care in the community. Given the intricacies in how VHA provides coverage for community emergency care and the desire to provide seamless Veteran-centric care, it is imperative to understand Veterans' experiences with navigating coverage for community emergency care. The purpose of this study was to elicit feedback from Veterans about their experiences with and perceptions of community emergency care coverage paid for by VHA. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Veterans Health Administration data were used to identify geographically diverse Veterans who recently used emergency care. We conducted semi-structured, qualitative interviews with 50 Veterans to understand their VHA coverage and experiences with accessing community emergency care. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. We conducted directed content analysis of interview transcripts. RESULTS: Veterans emphasized three major concerns with navigating community emergency care: (1) they lack information about benefits and eligibility when they need it most, (2) they require assistance with medical billing to avoid financial hardship and future delays in care, and (3) they desire multimodal communication about VHA policies or updates in emergency coverage. CONCLUSIONS: Our results highlight the challenges Veterans experience in understanding VHA coverage for community emergency care. Feedback suggests that improving information, support, and communication may help Veterans make timely, informed decisions when experiencing unexpected illness or injury.