COVID-19 Guidance for Community Providers
VA is pleased to offer guidance and support for providers across the nation to manage the COVID-19 public health emergency, particularly rural providers.
Guidance, support, and resources related to COVID-19 is provided on this page for any provider in the United States serving the public as part of VA’s fourth mission to support the Nation during times of national crisis.
Specific guidance is also provided for community providers who provide health care services to Veterans on behalf of VA.
VA announces ‘Fourth Mission,’ actions to help America respond to COVID-19
Veteran Care COVID-19 Vaccinations
At this time, VA is distributing vaccines through its VA medical centers and outpatient clinics.
In addition to offering the COVID-19 vaccine at VA facilities, VA now offers the following options for eligible Veterans to receive VA coverage for the vaccine in the community. This opportunity; however, does not give eligible Veterans priority over others seeking vaccinations at any location.
- In-Network Retail Pharmacy: Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system.
- In-Network Urgent Care facilities: 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.
- Community providers, if a referral or authorization exists.
Veterans eligible for community care may find in-network urgent care facilities and retail pharmacies by using the VA Facility Locator. Eligible Veterans are encouraged to call the community care provider of choice to ensure the site has vaccines available and to determine if an appointment is necessary. Veterans are also encouraged to print the Billing Information and take it with them to their vaccine appointment.
As with all health care in the community, Veterans are encouraged to consult local and state resources for COVID‑19 vaccination availability and consider VA facilities for the vaccination.
Veteran Care – Testing for COVID-19
VA’s goal is to ensure that COVID-19 viral testing, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is available to eligible Veterans as widely as possible, whether through VA health care centers or through our community health care partners.
The following describes how Veterans may be tested for COVID-19, paid for by VA:
- Eligible Veterans should meet specific testing criteria, as described by CDC and local public health department guidelines, to receive COVID-19 viral testing paid for by VA.
- Viral testing includes nucleic acid (molecular) and antigen tests, which test for the current presence of the virus. See below for the CDC explanation of viral testing for COVID-19 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explanation of coronavirus testing basics for types of COVID-19 testing.
- To be eligible, Veterans must either be enrolled in VA health care or otherwise be eligible for VA care. See the Veteran community care eligibility requirements below for specifics.
- Eligible Veterans will not be charged a copayment for COVID-19 viral testing.
- VA will reimburse community providers for COVID-19 viral testing of eligible Veterans at one of the following outlets:
- In-network Urgent Care/Retail locations, if it is in conjunction with a clinical visit for care.
- In-network Community Care Network (CCN) providers, if a referral or authorization exists.
- Emergency Departments, if the visit otherwise meets criteria for VA coverage of emergency care services (through the CCN networks or care that is paid for directly by VA).
Veteran Care – General Guidance
Community providers providing health care services to Veterans through a formal relationship with VA (e.g. as a network provider or through a contract) should follow the below guidance during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Convert Routine In-Person Appointments to Telehealth
- Continue to implement physical distancing and take action to ensure the safety of our Veterans and your staff. Until this guidance is lifted, where possible convert all routine visits to telehealth, to include referrals/authorizations already in place.
- Please ensure Veterans do not attend routine appointments in-person except where the urgency of in‑person treatment clinically outweighs the risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Enhanced telehealth encounters are an effective means to care for Veterans with routine needs, as clinically appropriate, and limits Veteran and staff risk for COVID-19.
Follow CMS, CDC, and State/Local Guidance on Screening, Testing, Case Reporting, and Personal Protective Equipment
- Ensure health care professionals are conducting appropriate screening at the entrances of inpatient and long-term care facilities, test patients for COVID-19 as appropriate, and report results to appropriate authorities.
- Ensure all relevant personnel are trained in how to properly don, use, and remove personal protective equipment (PPE) by referring to the information provided by the CDC.
Plan for Increased High Acuity Demand
- Ensure planning is in place to support an increased demand for high acuity care, including medical supplies, ventilators and related equipment, and staffing.
Communicate With Your Local VA Medical Center (VAMC)
- Notify your local VAMC or clinic regarding any Veteran cases or exposure to COVID-19 and any cancellations or closures of services.
- In the event visits or services cannot be provided to a Veteran in your care due to COVID‑19, please ensure next steps in care are jointly coordinated with the Veteran's VA care team. We understand this is a rapidly changing situation across the country, your state, and your locality. Deliberate care coordination will ensure the best possible outcomes for our Veteran population.
Episodes of Care Extension Guidance
This extension replaces the previously communicated 60-day extension guidance and will allow adequate time to complete all the services associated with each episode of care.
All community care referrals in HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), except for those in a cancelled or Episode of Care (EoC) complete status that have an expiration date between March 1, 2020, to July 31, 2020, will be extended to September 30, 2020, except for the following episodes of care:
- Emergency Care
- Unauthorized Emergency Care
- Adult Day Health Care
- Homemaker-Home Health Aide
- In-Home Respite Care
Work with TriWest or Optum to Expand Enrollment
Work with the regional administrator (TriWest or Optum) to continue to expand enrollment in VA’s network. This will allow VA to continue to enhance partnerships and build a robust network of compassionate and dedicated providers for Veterans.
Guidance for Veterans
- Veterans have been advised to reach out to you directly to confirm their appointments.
- If your office is affected by closures, limited services, quarantining, or social distancing based on CDC and local health department guidelines, try to transition the appointment to telehealth, or work with the Veteran to reschedule the appointment if possible.
- If a Veteran must be seen in person, please communicate in advance about any screening procedures at your office, so they can prepare.
- You may also refer Veterans in your care to the following resources for any questions they may have about accessing their VA or community care health benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Training for Clinical Staff
|Rapid Sequence Intubation||Practical guidance for how to safely intubate a patient with COVID-19.||Providers, Respiratory Therapists|
|Remote Consultation Flow Sheet||A step-by-step guide from the British Medical Journal for how to remotely assess a patient for COVID-19 symptoms.||Providers, Nurses|
|Tele Urgent Care||Resources for how to establish a tele urgent care model to reduce potentially unnecessary emergency department visits.||Providers, Nurses|
|Masks in a Health Care Setting||A simple guide describing the types of respiratory protection available to providers and the appropriate setting for their use.||Providers, Nurses|
Clinical Strong Practices
This critical COVID-19 training is offered through VA and other sources without the need to create an account or login. All training is free, and some have associated accreditation.
Training for clinical staff are aligned to the following topic areas:
|Intensive Care Unit (ICU)||Clinical crisis skills training for clinical staff assigned to ICUs.||Clinical Staff|
|Wards||Clinical crisis skills training for clinical staff assigned to wards.||Clinical Staff|
|Emergency Department||Clinical crisis skills training for clinical staff assigned to emergency departments.||Clinical Staff|
|Community Living Center||Clinical crisis skills training for clinical staff assigned to community living centers.||Clinical Staff|
|Mental Health||Clinical crisis skills training for clinical staff assigned to mental health.||Clinical Staff|
|State Veterans Homes||Clinical crisis skills training for clinical staff assigned to a state veterans home.||Clinical Staff|
Other Organizations for Reference