When the Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19 expires on May 11, 2023, some of Virginia’s pandemic-related powers will also expire. Virginia has been preparing for this moment for months, working to make this transition as seamless as possible for veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors. VA is also working with our partners in the Administration and in Congress to extend or restore many of these authorities where possible.
As our nation enters this new moment, the VA remains committed to providing world-class care and benefits to all we serve. If you are concerned about the expiration of any of these credentials, we encourage you to contact your local VA medical center, call 800-698-2411, or go to VA’s Contact Us webpage. We will make sure you get the care and support you deserve.
Here’s an overview of how the end of PHE will affect VA care and services:
- Return to in-person visits for caregivers of veteran families. During the pandemic, Virginia eased the in-person visitation requirements associated with the Virginia Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program (PCAFC) and instead conducted most of those visits virtually. These visits include initial home care assessments, home care re-assessments, and wellness contacts. This flexibility will end on May 11, 2023. In-person visits have now resumed for most veterans and caregivers applying for or participating in PCAFC that require home visits. VA is actively communicating with all participating Veterans and caregivers to help them through this transition.
- Expanded use of VA Video Connect for telehealth. After PHE expires, the Department of Health and Human Services will resume enforcement of HIPAA rules regarding telehealth. Therefore, the VA will limit the telehealth platforms that can be used by veterans for scheduled video visits with VA healthcare professionals. Veterans will still be able to access telehealth through VA Video Connect, the primary video platform enabled for scheduled telehealth video visits. Webex will be authorized as an alternate platform for scheduled video telehealth visits in certain circumstances, such as when VA Video Connect is unavailable.
- During the public health emergency, VA clinicians were able to prescribe controlled drugs to veterans after a telehealth exam without first having an in-person exam. DEA and SAMHSA have announced an interim rule that will extend current PHE-related flexibilities to prescribe controlled drugs so VA’s prescribing flexibilities will not expire when the public health emergency ends. Additionally, DEA, in conjunction with HHS and in coordination with VA, has proposed rules for telemedicine flexibility outside of a declared public health emergency.
- Impact on veterans experiencing homelessness. During PHE, veterans experiencing homelessness and those participating in HUD-VASH can receive additional direct support from the VA – including assistance necessary for the veteran’s safety and survival (such as food, shelter, clothing, blankets, and hygiene items), transportation necessary to maintain the veteran’s stability and health (such as meeting with service providers, performing housing searches, and obtaining food and supplies), communication equipment, and services necessary to maintain the veteran’s stability and health ( such as tablets, smartphones, disposable phones and related service plans) etc. After May 11, 2023, veterans will no longer be able to receive this type of direct support under this authority. Congress has proposed legislation that would authorize VA to continue providing the assistance described above after PHE ends, but for now, we are taking every step possible to make this transition as smooth as possible for veterans who become homeless—including offering of support through our Supportive Services for Veterans Families program, local development and civic engagement centers (formerly Voluntary Service) and community partners. For more information, email [email protected] or visit the Virginia Homeless Veterans webpage. Veterans can still seek reimbursement for health care travel expenses if they travel for care at a VA health care facility or for VA-approved care at a non-VA health care facility and are eligible for travel payment. To apply for these benefits, visit the travel payment website.
- Reinstatement of pre-pandemic deadlines for VA travel reimbursement. According to PHE, Virginia has extended the deadline for veterans and their caregivers to apply for travel reimbursement for mileage and other travel expenses to and from approved health care appointments, meaning veterans can apply for these benefits after the normal 30-day window. This flexibility will end on June 9, 2023. After that date, veterans filing a claim for travel reimbursement will have to file within 30 days of their appointment with a VA physician. Veterans will also have to file travel appeals to beneficiaries within 365 days. To learn more about travel reimbursement and eligibility, visit the beneficiary travel self-service website.
- Eliminate VA’s statutory authority to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to spouses, caregivers, and veterans not enrolled in VA health care. During PHE, VA was authorized to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to spouses, caregivers, and veterans not enrolled in the VA health care system. After PHE expires on May 11, 2023, VA will no longer have this statutory authority. Spouses, caregivers, and veterans ineligible for VA health care are encouraged to stay current on recommended vaccines and access community-based COVID-19 vaccination: Vaccines.gov – Find COVID19 vaccine locations near you.