News From Headquarters

VA ECHCS Update

(Jan 20, 2021) Future vaccine clinic dates have been confirmed and are as follows:

  • Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center - January 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30   February 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 25
  • Colorado Springs January 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
  • Pueblo January 23
  • Alamosa January 22
  • Burlington January 21
  • Salida January 22

As a reminder, individual scheduling efforts are made off of appointment availability. Please encourage Veterans to answer any calls they receive from the VA. The AudioCare call will come up as our main ECHCS phone number: 303-399-8020.

The return phone number given on the AudioCare call is: 888-336-8262.

ECHCS Visitor Policy

There have been a few updates to the ECHCS Visitor Policy, specifically inpatient visitation. Please see the attached for more information.

As a reminder: If you are eligible to receive the vaccine per the priority guidelines dictated by CDC/VHA, you will receive an automated phone call as outlined in the attached script. Please do not call the call center asking for a vaccine appointment if you have not received a phone call. The call center is doing their best to get as many Veterans scheduled as efficiently as possible. Once a Veteran has received the automated call and expressed their positive interest in receiving the vaccine, our team is doing their absolute best to provide a follow up phone call within 5 days in order to schedule. If you are still waiting past the 5 day period you may call the phone number provided to you in the audiocare call: (888)336-8262. Again, please do not call to schedule unless you have already been contacted through the audiocare system. We will not be able to schedule appointments for ineligible Veterans.

COVID-19 Positive Numbers below updated as of Thursday, 01.08.2021 – 01.14.2021

VA ECHCS Veterans Cases: 1716 (+45)  Vaccinated by ECHCS:  1st Dose: 206  2nd Dose: 56

VA ECHCS Employees Cases: 371 (+10)  Vaccinated by ECHCS:  1st Dose: 2586  2nd Dose: 1008

State of Colorado Cases:(+16,254) 369,177  Vaccinated:  1st Dose: 223,827  2nd Dose: 46,897

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Teresa DiBella | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Congressional Liaison |VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System
1700 N. Wheeling St. (00), Aurora, CO 80045
Office: 720.723.6531 | email: Teresa.DiBella@va.gov
Cell: 720.202.6656 | team email: VHAECHCongressionalLiaison@va.gov


2021 Mid-Year Update

(Jan 11, 2021) Department Commander Greg Jackson and Sr Vice Commander Chip Kossow have announced a hybrid mid-year conference.

Our normal mid-year has been canceled due to COVID restrictions at the Elegante. But, the good news is that El Paso County is now at the Orange level and the Elegante can accommodate up to 50 people max in a conference room.

With that capability, Commander Greg has is putting together a Zoom mid-year on Thursday and Friday January 28-29 for 1 ½ to 2 hours for presentations by department committees. Greg will be reaching out to National Commander Oxford, National Vice Commander Leibenow and candidates Dillard and Fisher to make a live appearance on one of the days.

On Saturday morning will be the hybrid part of the conference. Chip Kossow will present the membership report and awards live on Zoom from the Elegante. The Law Enforcement Officers of the year awards will be announced. Annette Johnson will present the Children and Youth report. The Media awards will be announced, and the Commander has some special presentations. All of this will be done in person by the presenters. We will be able to accommodate up to the COVID max of 50 people to participate in this part of the mid-year.

On Saturday afternoon Boys State will kick off their program as they normally do with an in-person meeting. That meeting will be live streamed also. Baseball will conduct a training session in another room.

Commander Jackson is calling for a Department Executive Committee meeting on Sunday January 31st at 1 pm in Salon A at the Elegante. This will be in-person for those that can attend. Since the room is limited to 50 max only DEC members and Department officers and guests will be able to attend up to the 50 person limit. We will do an RSVP for this meeting on a separate email.

The complete hybrid agenda will be published as soon as the Commander has confirmed all of the presenters. You will receive links to the Zoom meetings a few days prior.

We need to keep this organization “On Mission”. This will be different, but it will be productive and successful.

Charles Pat Smith, Adjutant

Update - #48 IndyCar Announcement

Give 48 Challenge

(Dec 6, 2020) As a follow-up to the announcement of the #48 IndyCar team on Tuesday, I wanted to share a couple of exciting highlights and insights with you as to the success of the launch.

From a Public Relations Perspective:

As you will recall, one of the primary goals of the sponsorship platform was to place The American Legion brand into new audiences that don’t normally talk about The American Legion. Tuesday’s announcement was a great start.

A sample of just a portion of the media coverage is noted below:
  1. The American Legion secured a national four-minute segment on Tuesday (12/1) morning’s Fox & Friends broadcast where Jimmie Johnson announced our sponsorship and the Giving Tuesday $48 Challenge to its over 2 million viewers at 7:50 a.m.
  2. The Fox & Friends producers and talent used The American Legion graphics and promoted the legion.org/48 website verbally and on-screen.
  3. The American Legion Press Release itself was well received by local and national print, broadcast and on-line media including one of the top stories of the day on Racer.com.
  4. The American Legion sponsorship was hailed by the motorsports media for being innovative in its approach and its focus on veterans and the military communities.
  5. Links to a variety of national media coverage:
    1. https://video.foxnews.com/v/6213303514001#sp=show-clips
    2. https://motorsports.nbcsports.com/2020/12/01/jimmie-johnson-tony-kanaan-chip-ganassi-racing-sponsorship/
    3. https://racer.com/2020/12/01/the-american-legion-to-back-ganassis-no-48-entry/
    4. https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/motor/2020/12/01/indycar-jimmie-johnson-chip-ganassi-american-legion-sponsor/6474707002/
    5. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/chip-ganassi-racing-and-the-american-legion-announce-multi-year-ntt-indycar-series-relationship-301182431.html
    6. https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2020/12/01/Marketing-and-Sponsorship/Ganassi.aspx

From a Digital Fundraising Perspective:

  1. Having the opportunity to pair the major news of our new relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan with the nationwide Giving Tuesday platform was an added benefit to the day.
  2. As a result of our collaborative efforts, The American Legion set a record for a single-day fundraising effort for the organization by raising over $118,500 during Giving Tuesday.
  3. Granted, we fell just short of our $148,000 goal but we are excited by the potential ability to activate donors with a focused and concentrated approach around a one-day event. We believe this recent success bodes well for future efforts over the 2021 and 2022 seasons with longer lead times and increased promotional muscle.
  4. For perspective, Giving Tuesday in December of 2019 raised $17,000 for The American Legion.

Thanks again to all for the interest and support and we look forward to continued success and new milestones as we roll into the 2021 season.

Best –
Dean Kessel
Executive Director – Marketing
The American Legion

Need an Appointment with a VA Benefits Expert?

Denver VA Regional Office Announces the Launch of VBA Interview Scheduling

Interviews Offered

(Dec 1, 2020) In the event the VBA offices located in the Colorado Springs PFC Lindstrom VA Clinic, Grand Junction VA Medical Center, or Denver Regional Office, close to the public due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, our Public Contact Team is available by appointment if you would like to speak with one of our Benefits Counselors. You will receive a telephone call by a benefits counselor based on your selected date and time. You can start scheduling appointments immediately, even while we are still open to the public!

Schedule Booking Logo Options are by appointment only:
  • Schedule a telephone Interview
  • Schedule a Virtual video Interview through WebEx (coming soon)

How to schedule an appointment

To schedule an appointment, visit our bookings page at: https://v2.waitwhile.com/lists/denvervaregionaloffi/join


VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System Update

News & Announcements

(Nov 24, 2020)Due to the holiday, we will not be holding our regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday. However, we’ve passed a lot of information in the last few months, so I wanted to wrap up with an overview before we meet again on December 10th.

VA’s Fourth Mission

At this time the state is projecting a surge of COVID-19 cases around the first week of December, and then again after Christmas. VA ECHCS is proactively reaching out to our community partners, to include FEMA, to assess needs among Colorado hospitals. At this time, we have not received a formal request to activate our Fourth Mission, but we stand ready to support increased bed capacity should our neighbors call on us. More information on VA’s Fourth Mission.

ECHCS Hot topics:

COVID testing is completed at:
  • The Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center Emergency Department 24/7 Bldg P at RMR is open for drive-up testing 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Effective Monday, November 30, hours will change to 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.). This test site should be utilized by Veterans needing testing, who are NOT in need of medical attention. Bldg P is located at 1999 N. Fitzsimons Pkwy, Aurora, CO 80045, on the North end of the campus.
  • PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Clinic in Colorado Springs M-F 0830-1500 (weather dependent). Clinic information to include testing availability can be found at www.denver.va.gov/emergency/index.asp
  • Ear Looped procedural masks (we will provide upon entry) continue to be required at all VA ECHCS sites of care. Visitor Policy - our outpatient visitor policy allows for one Medically Necessary Caregiver only.
    • This means that patients with disabilities (Which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairments) who require help with the provision of medical or behavioral health care, activities of daily living, speaking for the patient or keeping the patient safe, may have a designated assistance person.
    • For inpatients, the only visitation permitted in the medical center will be for end-of-life visitation of COVID-19 negative patients. (End-of-life visits for COVID-19+ patients will continue to be facilitated through video connect.)
Digital COVID-19 Screening Tool

This is mandatory for all Veterans, caregivers, visitors, employees, and contractors to gain entry to any of our sites of care. You can access this digital screening tool by texting SCREEN to 53079. You may also access the screening tool by going to www.va.gov/covid19screening. Medication delays – VA ECHCS continues to work with USPS – Please make sure to order your medications early, track on MyHealtheVet

Flu Shots

  • Available during face-to-face appointments with your provider
  • Available through Community Care
    • Community retail pharmacies and urgent care.
    • In addition to availability at VA medical facilities, eligible Veterans can receive the seasonal flu vaccination through Community Care Network (CCN) in-network retail pharmacies or urgent care locations. Click on the VA Community Care Regions link below to find where the Veteran is located. The chart shows what VA medical facility or community in-network location availability is for Veterans to receive their flu shots.
    • Veterans should call ahead to make sure the flu shot is available at the location of their choosing.
    • These no-cost flu shots are available Sept. 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021, to eligible Veterans. Vaccines are subject to availability and may be in limited supply after March 1, 2021.
  • No appointment or VA referral is required - Eligible Veterans do not require a VA referral. Veterans can go to an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location, present a valid government-issued identification (e.g. Veterans Health ID Card, Department of Defense ID card, state-issued driver's license or ID card, etc.) and receive their flu shot Eligible Veterans can receive a no-cost standard-dose (quadrivalent) or high-dose flu shot.
  • How do Veterans locate an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near them? Veterans who live in CCN Regions 1 – 4 can locate an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location by using the VA Locator HERE.
  • Other community providers and pharmacies - Many local retail pharmacies offer flu shots that may be covered by private insurance or programs such as Medicare. There may be a charge for a Veteran’s flu shot at these locations. If Veterans do not have insurance, and receive a flu shot at a retail pharmacy that is not in VA's Community Care Network, there will usually be a charge.
  • Eligibility - Retail pharmacies: Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system. Urgent care locations: Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system and have received care from a VA or in-network community provider in the past 24 months. To check eligibility, Veterans should call their local VA medical facility OR call 844-MyVA311 (844-698-2311), select option 1, and then select option 1 again.
  • Copayments - Eligible Veterans whose visit to an in-network urgent care location that consists of only a flu shot do not incur a copayment. In addition, flu-shot only visits to an in-network urgent care location does not count toward the first three visits per calendar year that determines copayment rates based upon the number of visits and the Veteran's VA eligibility priority group.

2020 Copays and Billing Statements

Monthly patient billing statements that have been on hold since April 6, 2020 will resume for payment in January 2021. Any questions or appeals should be directed to the appropriate POCs listed in the letter.

24/7 Call Center Operations:

VA ECHCS Call Center is now live with 24/7 call center operations effective 11/08/2020. Veterans now be able to schedule appointments, refill medications and speak with a Nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days week. This was not an option before. One few VAs that have this operation. This creates a level of continuity and quality of care, improving Veteran satisfaction.

Virtual Mental Health Care:

We are working to better improve patient satisfaction when it comes to the shift in virtual care. Quote from VSignals: “Thank you for moving these appointments to virtual so I can continue treatment without risking being exposed to COVID-19. My provider is excellent.”

Much of our Mental Health Care is now virtual (video or telephone) In October 2020, ECHCS completed 12,507 visits; 9,940 virtual – 79% virtual! Compare to October 2019, where only 8% were virtual Virtual care will continue to be used and increased beyond COVID-19.

Caregiver Support Expansion:

Caregiver Support Program changes went into effect on October 1, 2020, per VA MISSION Act of 2018 Regulatory changes include:
  • Expansion to include Veterans with 70% or higher SC, where injuries occurred prior to May 7, 1975 or after Sept 11, 2001. Veterans between May 7, 1975 and before Sept 11, 2001 will be eligible two years after this current regulatory change.
  • Includes Illness OR Injury as qualifying condition, and does not require that need for a caregiver is due to the SC condition
  • Clarification regarding what “in need of personal care services” means, and focuses on moderate to severe needs
  • Centralizes all eligibility determinations by interprofessional teams at each VISN.
  • Development of IT system for administrative and record keeping (requirement of MISSION Act)
  • Includes legal referral and financial planning services
·

All current participants will undergo re-evaluation after the official implementation date. No change for current participants in stipend (unless eligible for increase) 1 year from final rule effective date. Applications for those who meet eligibility expansion will need to be done on or after the final rule effective date – projected 10/1/2020; applications received prior to this date will be determined using prior eligibility.

Projects

  • PTSD-RRTP - Construction contract has been awarded. Should break ground in the next 4 weeks.
  • Castle Rock Clinic - ECHCS has twice solicited the public for Requests for Lease Proposals (RLPs), however, none of the submitted proposals met the minimum requirements. ECHCS has now been approved for a ground up new build clinic in the Castle Rock area.
  • Replacement Aurora Clinic - ECHCS is seeking a 32,000 sq.ft. replacement clinic for the Aurora VA Clinic. The Sources Sought Solicitation for the Aurora Replacement Clinic went out twice. Nothing met the needs of the clinic. We are considering developing this site of care as a build to suit as well.
  • As-Built Lease (El Paso County) - ECHCS is almost at completion with the Union Boulevard Clinic, the new primary care clinic in Colorado Springs. The clinic is projected to see patients December 8, 2020.
  • DVAMC (Decommissioning) - ECHCS is actively securing the campus in an effort to safely decommission the campus and its major systems. Furthermore, the campus is approved to be parceled and partially disposed of. ECHCS, in partnership with General Services Administration and the VA Office of Real Property are actively working through the report of excess process.
  • Colorado Springs - We have experienced unprecedented growth of enrollment in ECHCS services in El Paso County over the last 10+ years. ECHCS will soon open the Union Blvd. VA Clinic in Colorado Springs – a clinic providing desperately needed PC and MH services. We estimate the first patient day to be December 8, 2020. ECHCS has maximized its available resources while advocating for strategic investment of new resources in the market. We recently had the opportunity to share what we are seeing in the market with the SECVA and Senator Cory Gardner. They both agreed that ECHCS is under resourced.

    Sen. Gardner introduced legislation that, if approved, would authorize the construction of a major medical facility for VA in Colorado Springs. We are currently developing our business case for this concept, with the intent being to submit for approval through our normal capital planning process. We are also actively engage with our DoD partners to identify opportunities for partnership on this concept and others as we pursue a Joint Venture.

Vaccine Trials

On Nov 2, 2020, VA-ECHCS enrolled their first patient in ENSEMBLE, a study of the COVID vaccine being developed by Johnson and Johnson.

ENSEMBLE is a randomized, placebo controlled trial, which is the highest scientific standard for a clinical study. The study is open to Veterans and ECHCS employees. The study aims to enroll 500 participants at the ECHCS site. Veterans and employees at southern Colorado sites who are medically eligible for the study will have an opportunity to enroll at their local CBOCs.

You can’t get COVID-19 from vaccines in clinical trials. That’s because the vaccine does not contain any live or killed virus. Participants in vaccine clinical trials may be exposed to the virus in their everyday lives, but not through the study.

Black and Hispanic Americans are nearly three times as likely to become infected with COVID-19 compared to white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Veterans and ECHCS employees may get more information by phone call 720-723-3098 or e-mail echcovidvaccine@va.gov

I’m so thankful for all of you! With the many uncertainties this year has thrown at us, you’ve all remained a constant source of advocacy and assistance to our Veterans. You never stopped being there. Thank you so much for all you do – For our Veterans, for ECHCS, and for me. I hope you all have a safe a relaxing day off. Happy Thanksgiving!

Teresa DiBella | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Congressional Liaison |VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System

(11/04/2020 01:30 PM EST) VA ECHCS selected for COVID-19 vaccine trial. VA ECHCS began a clinical trial for the single-dose investigational COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. This is the fourth large-scale COVID-19 vaccine trial in the U.S. Read the full story.