VAM Email Alert: June 2020

June 2020



IMF and VAM Stand Together with the Black Community

The brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police has enraged the world. The IMF and VAM stand together with the Black community in calling for justice and racial equality. We believe unconditionally that Black Lives Matter.

Because of the systemic racism that still runs rampant in our communities, Black patients have long been denied access to the best care. Their health status has been undermined by inequalities in every sphere of life including jobs, housing, education, and more. It is paramount that this must change. The IMF is committed to making change happen and it must happen NOW. We will not shrink from our responsibility of ending systemic racism.

Racial Inequities Less Prevalent in Veteran Care

Given the moment, it feels important to discuss racial inequity in the healthcare system as it relates to both veterans and myeloma. Myeloma is the most common type of blood cancer among African Americans, yet they generally have poorer outcomes and are less likely to be enrolled in clinical trials than other ethnicities. Thankfully, dedicated researchers have recently completed a study on how veterans differ from the non-veteran population in this regard at the annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) in 2018.

Researchers used the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Central Cancer Registry to identify 4,805 veterans with myeloma between 1999 and 2014, including 1,418 (29.5 percent) who were black.

In contrast to the non-veterans, African Americans in the VA system had similar outcomes to other ethnicities and had a longer survival rate on average. The VA also had fewer treatment disparities, which suggests a better integrated healthcare system than civilian counterparts. The researchers said that their findings present a need for more studies like theirs, that may ultimately lead to closing the gap in care between different populations.

Veterans Against Myeloma Introduces New Informational Pamphlet for Patients

This month, VAM has unveiled a new pamphlet to introduce veterans to how their myeloma relates to their time in service. The pamphlet is a truncated version of the informational booklet and provides a quick snapshot of information important to veterans with myeloma, services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other veteran service organizations.

Click here to download the pamphlet

VA, TRICARE Offering Enhanced Telehealth Services

Over the course of the last several months one main issue has arisen from the pandemic that touches nearly everyone who seeks medical care of some kind; is it safe to go to the doctor’s office? To avoid the complexities of a doctor visit at a time when COVID-19 infection is still highly possible, telehealth has emerged as a viable alternative. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been making telehealth a priority prior to the pandemic to reach veterans in rural areas and were well poised to expand that service once the virus was identified as a serious threat.

On Tuesday, June 23rd, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization and Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on VA Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Expansion and Impact. The testimony of witnesses can be found here. The hearing was largely positive of the work the VA has done in expanding telehealth services during the pandemic, noting that the VA has out-performed many non-VA systems in converting appointments to telehealth.

TRICARE has similarly had success in expanding their offering of telehealth services, including audio-only services. TRICARE is temporarily paying for providers from out of state, as well as waiving many co-payment or cost-sharing for patients. These enhanced benefits went into effect on May 12th of this year.

Many advocates hope that the benefits gained by patients during this pandemic that allow greater access to care will remain once the situation returns to normal. Telehealth, in particular, has been highlighted as a major benefit with little to no additional cost beyond initial system set-up. VAM will continue to monitor telehealth service access over the coming months.


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