Changes to the Beneficiary Travel Program

VAPIHCS Veterans,

Reminder of Changes to Timely Filing Rule

VA has made a change to the Beneficiary Travel program. Starting on June 9, 2023, the 30-day timely filing rule began to be enforced again. The COVID-19 Congressional Mandate that allowed for extension of claims has expired. Travel claims must be submitted within 30 days of an appointment for them to be reimbursed. VA Pacific Islands Health Care System (VAPIHCS) wants to make sure you get reimbursed for all your travel, so please get those claims in on time.

Additionally, Veterans should keep in mind that proof of attendance is required for all community care claims. Claims will be denied if there is no proof of attendance, so ensure that you get proof when you attend appointments. If you need assistance, please call the Beneficiary Travel program at (855) 574-7292.

New Uber Health Connect

Veterans in the Hawaiian Islands are now able to participate in the VA Uber Health Connect. This is a new initiative which can provide supplemental transportation to eligible Veterans needing access to and from medical care. The VA Uber Health Connect Initiative launched as a pilot program in 2022 at ten VA Medical Centers. From January 2022 to March 2023, VA Uber Health Connect completed more than 30,000 Uber rides across 408,529 miles for Veterans. These rides have increased access, improved clinical engagement, and saved VA an estimated $35 million. The cost savings are in part from faster emergency department and inpatient discharges as well as closing the gap on an estimated 28,000 missed appointments. If you think you might be eligible for the program, talk to your doctor about it or call 1-800-214-1306 to get more information.

Summer Safety Tips

The Whole Health theme of the month is surroundings, and this week I’d like to talk about how that relates to being safe in the summertime. We all love summer. It’s a great time to get out and snorkel, surf, dive, fish, paddle board, swim, hike, kayak, and enjoy all that Hawaii has to offer. However, all our favorite activities come with risks, and managing those risks can help you to stay healthy and safe.

First, it’s fun to be outdoors and to take family photos in the flowers. However, it’s also important to bring your EpiPen any time you might be around things you are allergic to, like bees or other animals. Please remember that expired medications are not as effective, so call us to speak with Pharmacy about renewing your prescription if it is expired. Make sure to carry your EpiPen with you, because you never know when you may need it. You can also make an appointment to talk with your doctor about antihistamines that may help you with issues like post-nasal drip while everything is blooming.

Another thing to be mindful of is jellyfish. Most jellyfish stings are not fatal, but they can cause vomiting, stomach pain, nausea, muscle pain, dizziness, and other unpleasant symptoms. It’s recommended that you wear a long-sleeve rash guard and leggings or a wetsuit when you swim. You may also want to check the jellyfish forecast before you plan a beach day, because jellyfish often end up on the beaches during certain phases of the moon.

When you swim, you should also remember to wear reef-safe sunscreen. Even if you’re not prone to sunburns, you still increase your risk of melanoma when you go out without sunscreen on. Additionally, remember to never go into the ocean alone. Even if you know a place well, a sudden swell or rip current could leave you in danger. A buddy can help you get to safety or signal for help if you are in distress. This goes for folks hitting the hiking trails too. Always go with a friend. Finally, don’t forget to trust your instincts if the sky or the water look dangerous. When in doubt, don’t go out!

Boating is another popular summer activity. Please remember that drinking and driving isn’t just dangerous in a car. Make sure your captain is sober when going out on a boat. Life jackets are required in the state of Hawaii on boats, kayaks, paddle boards, and other watercrafts. Always keep your life jacket on. Even if you know how to swim, you may fall and be knocked unconscious before going into the water, and a life jacket could save your life. Finally, be mindful when you’re driving a boat of snorkelers, surfers, divers who may be about to surface, and all other people in the water. Our oceans belong to everyone, so let’s try to make sure everyone stays safe in the water.

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy Hawaii with family and friends. However, we also want to make sure that you have a safe and healthy summer. From packing healthy snacks to re-applying sunscreen throughout the day, there’s so much you can do to make sure that you’re putting your health and safety first. Every Veteran in our care is important to us, and we want all of you to have a safe and healthy summer!

Hernia Awareness Month

June is National Hernia Awareness Month. The term hernia may be spoken about often, but many people are unsure what a hernia is and how it can be treated.

What Is a Hernia?

A hernia is an uncomfortable condition in which an organ or tissue slips through a weak area in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue that holds the abdominal organs in place. It can occur and develop anywhere in the body, especially in the abdominal wall.

Common Symptoms of Hernias

• Pain or soreness in the affected area, especially when bending over, coughing, or lifting
• Visibly noticeable protrusion

• Burning, gurgling, or aching in the hernia bulge

• Weakness, pressure, or a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen

Five Main Causes of a Hernia

• Congenital defects

• Prior surgeries

• Pregnancy

• Improper lifting of heavy objects

• Advanced age & loss of tone

If you feel that you may have a hernia, please call 1-800-214-1306, and make an appointment with your doctor today. Hernias are not always dangerous, but they should be evaluated right away. Many will require surgery, although the urgency will vary by case.

Thoughts from Chaplain Richie Charles

We all love to feel appreciated; but have you ever found yourself wanting to express gratitude, but wanted to do so in a way that was genuine and conveyed the depth of how you felt? Well, help for this might come from an unexpected place: art.

When artists create paintings or poems, they are essentially crafting elaborate “thank you notes” to the various aspects of the world they seek to portray. A painting might be an expression of gratitude for the enchanting sunset of spring or the invigorating breeze that animates calm waters. The artist is in effect saying, “I have noticed something extraordinary that deeply touched me, and I find it valuable enough to capture and share it with others for their enjoyment.”

But what distinguishes exceptional art from mediocre art is the level of detail with which the artist observes and portrays the beauty they have encountered. A skilled artist, first and foremost, takes us beyond the mere acknowledgment that spring is pleasant; they delve into the specific elements that contribute to that pleasantness. For instance, they may describe leaves as soft as a newborn’s hands or raindrops delicately trickling down purple tulips. As artists or poets move from general descriptions to specific details in their portrayal, the scenes they depict come alive in our minds.

Similarly, expressing gratitude is most effective when we are able to be specific. We are surrounded by loved ones and colleagues, each possessing unique attributes and skills that bring joy and blessings to our lives. By articulating in detail the goodness we perceive in them, whether they are our loved ones or colleagues, our expressions of gratitude become more uplifting and authentic when we share them.

One Team, One Ohana!
Adam M. Robinson, Jr., MD, MBA, CPE
Director, VA Pacific Islands Health Care System
36th Surgeon General, USN

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