Michigan health care and mental health care providers need more training, support to serve the state’s aging veterans

November 10, 2020

Only 6.7 percent of Michigan health care and mental health providers are fully prepared to serve Michigan’s aging veteran population according to a new report by the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT) at the University of Michigan.

This finding is based on CHRT’s statewide assessment of the readiness and capacity of Michigan health care providers to serve older Veterans. The readiness criteria are based on the definition of readiness developed by the RAND Corporation and on the Institute of Medicine’s definition of “high quality care.” In addition, CHRT researchers added criteria related to caring for older and aging adults.

The researchers found that only about one in five (19 percent) of the health and mental health providers surveyed reported formal training in military culture or the specific health needs of veterans.

About half of the providers surveyed (49 percent) reported that they would be interested in receiving this training. Roughly one-third (32 percent) indicated no such interest.

Providers who know that they are treating veterans can ask about conditions associated with military service, including PTSD, exposure to chemical agents, chronic back pain, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma.

Other key findings from the study of health care provider capacity to serve Michigan’s aging veterans include:

  • About one in three providers surveyed (38 percent) reported that they screened patients for current service or veteran status;
  • About one in four providers surveyed (22 percent) reported that they are familiar with military culture;
  • More than one-third of the mental health providers surveyed (36 percent) reported having formal training in military culture and the specific behavioral health needs of veterans.
  • There was significant variation between the preparedness of mental health professionals, physicians, physical and occupational therapists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, licensed nurses, and dentists.
  • Only one in four of the healthcare providers surveyed (22 percent) were aware of the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) that seeks to expand community access to community-based healthcare providers.
  • Six in ten of providers surveyed (61 percent) were not registered to participate in any of the VA Community Care Programs.

The authors suggest that provider organizations, licensing organizations, and professional associations discuss ways to implement and support the following recommendations for members serving aging veterans:

  • Screening patients for current or past military service;
  • Screening veterans and active service members for service-related conditions;
  • Improving provider familiarity with military culture; and
  • Learning about VA benefits for long-term services and supports, over-the-counter medicines, and treatments for service-related conditions including hearing loss.