A VA patient advocate is completely different and separate from the patient advocate that you designate as part of the durable power of attorney for health care in your estate plan, who can make medical decisions only in the event of your incapacity. Our BRMM attorneys explain the estate planning designation in detail in a separate article, Why You Should Designate a Patient Advocate, AKA Medical Durable Power of Attorney. The discussion that follows addresses only the VA Patient Advocacy Program, which is unrelated to the patient advocate designation in your estate plan.
What Is a VA Patient Advocate through the VA Patient Advocacy Program?
VA patient advocates are available at every VA medical center. They are employees who are trained to handle the concerns of patients and family members. A VA patient advocate addresses concerns with the medical care team and advocates for patient and family rights when necessary.
The VA Patient Advocacy Program offers an option for a military veteran or veteran’s family member whenever health care treatment concerns arise. While the VA encourages the patient and family members to work with their assigned treatment team, if an issue arises with a team member or the team cannot satisfactorily address an issue, the VA Patient Advocate can act as a liaison between the veteran and the team to resolve concerns.
A veteran’s treatment team includes anyone who is a doctor, nurse, social worker, dietician, pharmacist, chaplain, therapist, or other professional who assists with a veteran’s medical care. A VA patient advocate is an employee at a VA facility who is specifically designated to work with management and other employees to facilitate resolutions.
The VA has a set of procedures for patients and family members to follow when they wish to discuss a concern with the VA patient advocate, if the veteran’s team members cannot resolve the issue. When you wish to contact a VA patient advocate, you should first identify the person who has that responsibility at the facility providing treatment. Then follow the facility’s procedures for making contact with the advocate.
Rights of VA Patients
The Veterans Health Administration has an expansive statement of the rights and responsibilities of VA patients and residents at VA community living centers. Veterans and their families should be thoroughly familiar with those rights. If the care team fails to honor the rights, the patient or family member can contact the VA patient advocate for assistance.
Patient rights include nondiscrimination and respect in all aspects of treatment, which includes a comfortable and safe environment, access to the outdoors, and honoring cultural and personal values, beliefs, and preferences. It’s important for a veteran and family members to communicate beliefs and practices that are essential to the veteran’s well-being.
The VHA commits to protection of the veteran’s privacy and provision of information about health benefits and any costs associated with treatment. Maintaining the confidentiality of the veteran’s health record is assured. In exchange, the VHA asks patients to respect the privacy of other patients and living facility residents, by not revealing any health care information that you may overhear or become aware of.
The VHA states that it partners with the veteran regarding medical care and ensures participation by the veteran or a person they designate in all decisions about their care. They also encourage reporting of any concerns or complaints to the veteran’s team or to the VA patient advocate, especially if the veteran or a family member believes there has been neglect, abuse, or exploitation by VA staff.
In addition to the statement of patient rights, the VHA has a specific statement relating to rights of family members of VA patients and community living center residents. If you are a family member of a military veteran receiving treatment, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with that statement.
Talk With Our Trusted BRMM Attorneys
BRMM attorneys assist military veterans and their families with legal needs relating toestate planning for veterans, elder law, veterans’ benefits, and other concerns. We’ve been providing legal services to clients for more than 40 years. Our compassion, credentials, and commitment set us apart.
We serve clients in Troy, Oakland County, and surrounding areas, as well as out-of-state clients with estate and probate matters arising in Michigan. Call us at 248-641-7070 to talk about legal matters of concern to you or your veteran family member.