The VA is proposing to scrap its policy of denying medical care to veterans who miss two or more medical appointments.
The change will not take effect before June 14, and likely won’t be finalized until fall because of the lengthy process of changing regulations.
The current restriction, aimed at getting veterans to provide 24 hours of notice if they won’t be able to keep an appointment so that someone else can be offered the spot, “is inconsistent with VA’s patient-centered approach to medical care,” VA officials said in a statement.
Veterans groups have complained that VA’s policy of refusing to make new appointments for veterans who have missed other appointments can be especially hard on homeless veterans and those with mental health issues, whose failure to show up for appointments might be a sign of the depth of their problems.
The current policy does not ban veterans forever. There is no penalty if they provide a “reasonable excuse” for missing appointments, and emergency care is still provided. And veterans can have an appointment restored if they agree to cooperate in making future appointments, according to the notice of the possible rule change posted in the April 15 Federal Register.
Explaining the decision to change the policy, the VA notice says patients have become “equal partners in making treatment decisions” under a “dramatic shift” that has taken place in health care throughout the U.S.
“VA has adopted this approach and, whenever possible, eliminates both potential and proven barriers to care,” the statement says. “This is especially important in cases where VA provides treatment to vulnerable veteran populations, veterans who rely on VA as their primary source of medical care and those with service-connected disabilities. Denying follow-up medical treatment for even a short period can interfere with continuity and coordination of care.”
Refusing to provide medical services because of a broken appointment “is counterproductive and may discourage them from attempting to access care in the future.”