My late grandfather, Ziggy, was a first-generation American. During World War II, he served in the US Navy in the South Pacific. I will always remember the pride in his...
Addressing Social Determinants in our Veteran Populations
For many veterans, a different battle occurs daily on the homefront.
We’ve all seen the statistics. Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor, according to recent VA statistics. Twenty-two veterans a day are lost to suicide. In a pilot conducted in Bedford, MA, of 150 veterans, 29% experienced three or more SDOH factors. So, how do we best serve those who have braved and endured the battle?
Without question, there are many challenges that veterans face after they leave the military. The subject of veteran care services is a frequent, hot topic — one that leaves many wondering, why isn’t better care taken of our veterans? The conversation around health equity and caring for veterans has been transforming and giving traction to change, especially at the VA.
Tying resources together — including healthcare, social care, community services, and more — is one way many managed care organizations and community partners are working to change past issues and forge a way for all veterans to receive the highest level of care and support.
Veteran Care Services: The Health Equity Challenge Faced by Veterans
Upon leaving the military, most veterans first turn to the VA for support and resources for their physical and behavioral health, social care, and community resources. For veterans, this wide range of support is crucial because, compared to their civilian counterparts, veterans have higher rates of depression, other mental health conditions, substance use disorders, homelessness, and suicide. When re-adjusting to civilian society, veterans can also struggle greatly when trying to find the same sense of belonging and purpose that was part of their military community.
As the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States with a large portfolio of innovative programs and over 9 million veterans enrolled, the VA has several recognized challenges, including:
- Providing timely access to care for veterans
- Providing a consistent quality of care across VA sites and programs
- A lack of transparency
- Difficulty meeting the needs of rural veterans, many of whom are older
- Having confusing eligibility guidelines for some VA programs1
- Racial and ethnic health disparities in veteran care services2
Step outside the VA and into the private sector for veteran care services, and veteran care coordination may be non-existent in most programs or systems, and veteran care may be more impacted by socioeconomic factors — which can lead to greater health disparities for veterans.
Because the veteran population is growing more diverse, attention and commitment to health equity have become increasingly important. An understanding of whether disparities in utilization, social care, or healthcare exist for racial and ethnic veterans, women veterans, and vulnerable veteran populations is vital.
Ways MCOs and Other Community-Based Organizations Can Continue to Transform Their Care for Veterans
The needs and expectations of veterans are vast, varied, and ever-evolving. Additionally, the care and support a specific veteran requires are heavily impacted by specific attributes, such as the veteran’s life stage, gender, race or ethnicity, underlying health risk factors, conflict-related cohort, education level, employment status, and physical location.
To best care for veterans, managed care organizations (MCO) and other community-based organizations have started to focus on a more connected, robust veteran journey and personal experience with healthcare, social care, and community connectivity.
Here’s how some MCOs and communities are caring for veterans:
- Increased public-private partnerships
Policymakers responded to access challenges for veterans with the CHOICE Act and MISSION Act, which enable veterans to access private healthcare services depending on VA facility wait times, service ratings, and veterans’ distance from these facilities.
Continuing to streamline veteran care while facilitating consistent collaboration and communication between all participating providers is an excellent way to keep veterans engaged in services without experiencing unnecessary frustrations.
- Expanded healthcare choices
Building off increased public-private partnerships, MCOs, and community-based partners have the unique opportunity to establish expanded treatment options for veterans by offering a wider clinical network in veteran care services. By establishing a centralized information hub where veterans can both identify their specific needs and locate viable clinical services, the chance for veterans to slip through the cracks due to confusion, frustration, and unrealistic waiting lists can be essentially eliminated.
- Modernizing the veterans’ healthcare system
Modernizing veterans’ healthcare for the next generation requires ingenuity and proactively addressing existing issues in the system. Providing optional hybrid benefits and a clinical network that communicates seamlessly would allow veterans to make informed choices about cost, access, and provider networks in real-time — overall increasing health and social care choices for veterans and reducing disparities in healthcare outcomes.
Think about this: When a network can seamlessly coordinate all of a veteran’s care needs, fragmented transitions in care can be significantly reduced or eliminated. This also reduces the risk of poor care coordination and adverse outcomes, such as hospitalizations.
Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Solutions for the Veteran Community with Activate Care
Improved veteran care coordination includes:
- Deeply learning about the veteran population and its various, diverse subpopulations
- Better understanding of how they think about health and the care they need
- Delivering more personalized experiences
- Connecting veterans to the right services at the right time
- Addressing social determinants of health to more effectively close gaps in care
As a nationally-recognized provider of community care coordination and referral management technology, we want to help MCOs achieve better health outcomes for the veterans they serve.
How is this done? Through our Path Assist whole population social care solution and our Activate CareHub™ platform, MCOs can seamlessly coordinate all of a veteran's health, behavioral, and social care needs to help them achieve better health and well-being.
Activate Care’s Community Care Record connects all the dots.
Made for hospitals and health systems, health plans, HIE organizations, CBOs, state, and local agencies, and many more, we invite you to learn more about our efficient, effective SDOH solutions for every community — including the veteran community, which has already best served us.
Learn About Proactive Social Care for Veterans
1The Gerontological Society of America. The Changing Dynamics of Providing Health Care to Older Veterans in the 21st Century. Accessed October 22, 2022. https://academic.oup.com/ppar/article/30/1/3/5649797.
2National Library of Medicine. Racial and Ethnic Disparities in U.S. Veteran Health Characteristics. Accessed October 22, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7967786/.