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Veterans networking group trying to find answers among changing, confusing rules

Times - 10/16/2018

Oct. 15--PORTAGE -- Changing rules, a lack of communication and not enough education is leading to frustration among those trying to help veterans navigate through the system.

It's a "very confusing situation," Camille Cooke, chairwoman of the Northwest Indiana Military Support Network said last week after listening to two representatives of the Veterans Administration speak about the recent switch from the Veterans Choice Program to what is now called the Community Care program for veteran's health care.

"There is a lot of wrong information being disseminated," said Malissa Watters, a social working with the VA'sAdam Benjamin clinic.

Watters and VA patient advocate Donna Sanders spoke to members of the NWI Military Support Group last week in an effort to explain changes and help those advocating for veterans educate themselves so that they can better help veterans.

The support group represents about 20 organizations throughout Northwest Indiana who work with veterans on a variety of topics. Cooke said the group meets monthly to hear from agencies and share information.

The Veterans Administration Mission act of 2018 went into effect Oct. 1. Its aim is to streamline the care program, improve health care deliver and expand services for caregivers.

Watters told the group there has been conflicting information circulating during the transition between the two programs and, until the transition is completed, criteria from the choice program continues to be utilized.

"With the Mission Act, there are more questions than answers. We aren't even a month into the new system. The rules are the same for now," said Watters, adding the changes aren't going to impact veterans care. They are more of an internal change to meet with the changing landscape of health care.

"Community Care will be a much better system. Choice was a nightmare," said Sanders.

Support network members told the two there needs to be more communication and education between not only the VA and veterans, but with other groups who assist veterans through the system and agencies such as hospitals and doctors with whom veterans deal.

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