My HealtheVet: your VA electronic health record

If you are enrolled at the VA, you will have access to the website My HealtheVet. My HealtheVet is a great way to track your healthcare while a patient at the VA. Although any veteran that goes to the VA is eligible for a My HealtheVet account, you have to sign up for the program.

You can sign up for My HealtheVet electronically by using this link. Here are a few of the services that I use the most in My HealtheVet.

Pharmacy – This feature lets you look at your current VA prescriptions and medicine you have been subscribed in the past. If your doctor issued multiple refills of a prescribed medicine, you can order one of those refills electronically. The medicine will then be sent to your mailing address. This sure beats the old days when you would have to make a special trip to the VA just to get a prescription refilled.

Track health – This feature lets you read any lab tests or blood work that you did in the past. Test results are usually loaded into My HealtheVet a week after you did the blood work.

Secure messaging – This is basically an email service for every clinic you are a member of at the VA. Whenever you go to a new doctor in a specialty clinic, you will see that clinic added to the list of people you can send a message too. VA doctors are required to respond to your email within a few business days. I have asked questions in the past and didn’t receive a great answer, but I have never failed to receive a response. If you call your clinic, you often won’t be able to catch your doctor on the phone. Secure messaging is your best bet to save you another trip to the VA.

Blue button – This feature allows you to download all of your past VA healthcare. This will let you see all the notes the doctor or nurse put into the computer. This is important if you apply for disability compensation. Most disability compensation requests will require a doctor visit at the VA. By using the blue button after your visit, you will be able to see the doctor’s note and see if they believe your disability claim is service related. I don’t know how far back these records go. I first became a VA patient in 2002 and it seems I can see back that far. The My HealtheVet website says you can use the blue button to view military service information as well. I never saw that when I downloaded my personal health record (PHR) when using the blue button. Downloading your data is a really good idea if you see doctors outside the VA. That way they will know what type of treatment your VA doctors have provided.

VA appointment – This feature lets you look at the dates of upcoming and previous appointments.

I think My HealtheVet is a great service. My one complaint is that they give you access to your healthcare record without giving you any patient education needed to actually read the record. The doctor’s notes make sense and can be read, but the lab results and things like audiology tests can really only be read by a trained medical professional. They don’t provide these tests in a way a normal human being can understand.

Ever VA medical center should have a My HealtheVet coordinator. They are often positioned close to the entrance to the hospital. It is their job to encourage veterans to sign up for the program and are very helpful if you have any My HealtheVet questions.




Enrolling for health care at the VA

When I talk to veterans, I often hear incorrect assumptions about getting healthcare from the VA.

What I hear most frequently is, “Well I don’t have a service-connected disability so they wouldn’t take me as a patient”. This is not true. My father retired from the VA and he made sure I enrolled as soon as I got back from active duty. At that time, and for years after my initial enrollment, I did not have a service-connected disability. The VA provides full healthcare for anyone that meets the VA’s criteria for being a veteran listed on their website.

Does it cost anything to receive health care from the VA?

Well, it depends on how much money you make. When you enroll at the VA, they will have you take a MEANS test. This basically just asks how much money you made in the previous tax year. If you don’t make much money, then all of the VA services will be free. This was my experience while I was in college. Now that I have a good federal job, I pay 8 dollars per medical prescription. Seeing the doctor is still free. Any medicine that I am prescribed for a service-connected disability is also free.

Enrolling at the VA is pretty easy. Their enrollment web page shows all of your options. You can enroll online, by phone, or in person. Being enrolled at the VA counts as coverage under the Affordable Care Act and you will not have to pay a penalty if you use the VA as your sole healthcare provider. Even if you have private insurance through your employer, you can always keep the VA in mind for routine visits like an eye exam to cut down on co-pays.

Only a year ago, you had to have one appointment at the VA per year or they would drop you as a patient. You could always re-enroll, but it was an unnecessary hassle. In the last few months they started sending me emails announcing that when you enroll now, you are a patient for life. This is a recent program, so if you used to go the VA but haven’t in a while, you will probably still need to enroll again. I am sure they will still have you fill out a MEANS test each year, but at least they won’t drop you from the system if you don’t have an appointment annually.

I use the VA as my sole healthcare provider. If you are a veteran, I am sure you have heard about problems at the VA. And they certainly do have problems throughout the system, but it is a good option for those without healthcare plans at their work, or if your healthcare plan at work is too expensive.