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Delaware VA officials discuss new patient health care access rules

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester listens to Wilmington VA Medical Center Director Vice Kane during a roundtable discussion.

State Veterans Affairs officials discussed what’s working and what’s not with the newly-implemented VA Mission Act Monday.

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester hosted a roundtable at the Wilmington VA Medical Center to hear about June’s roll out of new patient rules.

The VA Mission Act expands access to outside medical providers for veterans who have long drives or face long waits at VA facilities. It also gives vets a new ability to go to community urgent care facilities instead of VA clinics.Vince Kane said he believes the VA gives veterans better primary care and mental health care than private medical care providers.

Terry Baker, with Vietnam Veterans of America, said he likes the urgent care provision because vets can get minor issues addressed locally.

But Baker said more veterans need access to dental care coverage.

“A guy that’s here and he’s 90 percent disabled, but he’s not “100 percent,” he doesn’t get dental care," Baker said. "I’m service-connected, I don’t get dental care. I have to go to the outside, deal with a doctor out there.”

He takes issue with state lawmakers expanding dental services to people on Medicaid - although he acknowledges Congress would have to approve changes to dental coverage for veterans.

Blunt Rochester said her takeaway is the act is working, but challenges remain.

“Another thing that I think we heard about was the whole issue of medical shortages," she said. "Here we are expanding options for veterans, but if there are no people to actually provide the services, it’s a moot point.”

Delaware’s shortages of some medical providers are leading to lengthy wait times for some veterans.

Staff from the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Georgetown say vets in Sussex County can wait up to eight months for an outside dermatology appointment. A veteran in Southern Delaware may wait up to a year to see a gastrointestinal specialist.

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