Involve VA from the Beginning
- Invite and encourage the VA and community hospice staff to be active participants in the partnership.
- Identify champions within the state Veteran’s Home system, the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and the VA Medical Centers (VAMCs).
- Because you will have frequent interaction with case-managers, establish good working relationships with them.
- Ask for contact names of the palliative care staff at the VAMC.
- Do your homework! Learn as much as possible about VA. Make every effort to understand their work and their challenges. To develop realistic expectations, learn as much as you can about the VA and Veteran groups.
- Learn about health care reimbursement and other benefits for Veterans, including hospice and palliative care.
- Ensure that all partners are informed and knowledgeable about one another’s work.
- Assess who knows what! Ask each partner to identify perceived barriers that might impact the success of the partnership.
- Learn about the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) policies and procedures. Each VISN within the VA network is fairly autonomous.
- Learn about the Veteran enrollment process and how your hospice staff can assist with expedited enrollment for terminally ill Veterans.
- Always be respectful of communication patterns with all partners, and don’t hesitate to initiate dialogue.
- Encourage all partners to be consistent with messaging.
- Develop and utilize a process for problem-solving when faced with challenging issues.
- Establish relationships with senior leadership of each partner organization. Send them frequent updates.
- Establish regular communication with VA facilities and circulate contact lists to partners and other interested parties.
- Let the VA and other partners know how much their involvement is appreciated!
- Listen carefully to VA language. Note their acronyms and learn to speak their language.
- Understand time commitments and limitations, and focus on manageable tasks.
- Visit Veterans Service Organizations, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion, and offer speakers, newsletter articles and/or other resources.
- Learn about and participate in Stand Downs at the VAMC.
- Invite VA staff to visit your hospice program, teach your staff about Veterans’ issues, and offer educational programs and resources to them in return.
- Visit the palliative care team and the inpatient area at the VAMC.
- Provide hospice contact lists to VA facilities and clinics.
- Evaluate your present services to Veterans. Enhance the ability of your staff to identify Veteran needs, how to determine what services a Veteran may be receiving and what you can do to expand your services to meet their needs.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of celebrating your successes!