Helping to Make Health Care Simpler for Veterans

As a World War II veteran, John* understands the importance of filling a need when one is presented. When faced with a shortage of pilots, John jumped into the role at the age of 23, flying 86 combat missions over Italy and North Africa before returning back home. Now, as he nears the age of 101, John is faced with his own needs in regard to his health. 

The health needs of veterans are often more complex, requiring a unique care system that addresses not only the clinical side but also social barriers that may influence their health. This could be food, housing, transportation or social interaction. For example, in 2018, 37,878 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the U.S. on a single night. Without a home, it’s harder to manage your health needs and many veterans live with complex mental and behavioral health challenges that need to be addressed. 

UnitedHealthcare’s National Veterans Program is working to identify and support veteran members and provide better care coordination, care management, care-gap closure and social service referrals. Social service referrals are provided when a veteran member identifies a social barrier to care such as food insecurity, inability to pay for utilities or lack of transportation among others. 

John was one of those members. A UnitedHealthcare veteran advocate, reached out to him and he shared that he had been using Veteran Affairs (VA) for his annual physical exam and to get hearing aids. Many veterans use VA for care or prescriptions, but their medical data isn’t always shared with UnitedHealthcare, which may be able to assist if there are any gaps in care. UnitedHealthcare worked with the VA in order to gain a more complete picture of John's health care journey, allowing for enhanced care coordination.

Over the last year, 376,000 UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members self-identified as a veteran. The National Veterans Program estimates this is just a third of the total UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage veteran members and a fraction of the estimated 5 million total population of veteran members who could be receiving better, more coordinated services. But without the identification, it remains unclear what kind of barriers to care some veterans may be experiencing. 

Once they are identified, the program can use social determinants of health data, which gives them insight into the non-clinical needs of the veteran population so they can take actionable steps and connect them to community resources. To date, 31,000 senior veteran members have been served through social service referrals for an estimated social value of $66 million, which is calculated by the value of the social services provided to the member. For example, the value of a food box provided. In addition to social assistance, veteran members also receive help enrolling in government programs and no-cost benefits for which they are eligible. If a member qualifies, they can save up to: 

  • $135 per month via the Medicare Savings Program
  • $4,900 per year in Part D assistance
  • $4,128 per year in Supplemental Nutrition Program benefits 

By working with VA to get a better understanding of veteran’s health care needs and by connecting John and other members like him with no-cost benefits and government programs, the National Veterans Program is helping those who serve live healthier lives. 

*member's name has been changed