In light of some recent confusion about the unsteady implementation of the VA Choice Card program on Guam, some solutions have been presented by the US Veterans Affairs and Tri-West, the main insurer for Guam’s Veterans.
Guam – Guam Veterans are being assured by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Tri-West Insurance that steps are being taken to provide Guam Veterans with the appropriate care they need.
Earlier today, members of the media met with Thomas Driskill, a representative from the VA, Ken Kiyokawa from Tri-West Insurance, and Guam Veterans Affairs Director Martin Manglona, to discuss the program’s implementation on island. Driskell acknowledged the confusion among Guam Veterans about their healthcare. He attempts to clear up some of that confusion.
Within the VA, there is two kinds of care that a veteran can receive. A veteran can come to the VA and receive care by VA staff and personnel, or if there is care needed that exceeds the VA’s capability to provide that care or the timeliness of the care, then the VA purchases the care,” said Thomas Driskell. “So a veteran is either gonna have the care provided to them by the VA or what we call, ‘on VA care’ or community care so its either; A or B, it sounds pretty simple when you look at it like that.”
Driskell, the executive assistant to the Director of the VA Pacific Island Healthcare System, says there are many different ways to receive care outside of the VA but it can get confusing. So in 2013, The VA led a 9 billion dollar contract called Patient Centered Community Care Contract, or PC3. Under the contract, Tri-West Insurance would be the primary provider for Guam Veterans. When the VA scandal hit last year, The US Congress passed the Veterans Choice Act in August of 2014. In December, Choice cards began hitting the mail, but because of confusion regarding the interpretation of wording in the act itself, Guam Veterans were not receiving the benefits of the veteran’s choice act. Once Guam was determined to recover the benefits, a road bump halted the recovery progress.
“And then the next bump in the road and this is not Tri West fault, this is the VA’s fault. The VA, it’s a big office in Washington, they had so many priorities they didn’t give full information to Tri West,” said Driskell. “ SO while we encouraged out veterans to start calling on their choice card, they would call Tri-west and Tri West didn’t have them listed as eligible. Oh my what a difficult time, we got that corrected and we worked together.”
Kiyokawa then explained some of the steps tri west is taking to help Guam Vets receive proper care.
“We started our dedicated Guam team, so the Guam team now comes in on Sunday, Hawaii time, which is Monday Guam time and we adjust the hours so they’re there till I think 11pm Hawaii Team, which service the Guam Veteran population, CNMI as well and they are there to take calls that are coming directly from this part of the pacific, they will become very knowledgeable of the nuances and how veterans receive care on Guam, but that is our approach, that is our objective,” said Kiyokawa “We are working together with our partners, this company called Netcare. [They are] very well established here on Guam and they’ve already put together a network that continues to grow. So as we hear that needs are coming up whether veterans need to go here or there to seek care. If we don’t have that provider in our network, our Netcare team mobilizes very rapidly and contact the provider and they have existing relationships, with providers here on Guam.”