The VA is allowing more patients to be treated outside the government system, in part to appeal to veterans from modern wars. It's part of an attempt to reach young veterans who've been reluctant to link up with the giant agency that oversees veteran benefits.
The VA has had trouble shedding its reputation as a place with long wait times with care that might not be worth the headaches. So they've also expanded offerings to incorporate wellness, like yoga and cooking classes. Even then, Tennessee's VA hospitals and clinics have held interest meetings for recent service members with very little response.
"These generations are not joiners," says VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "They're very happy in their own communities, in their own homes."
So part of the Mission Act that was revamped this month goes even further to decentralize the VA. Veterans can even be treated at urgent care clinics.
Wilkie says the VA is launching new social media efforts, especially targeting suicide prevention. "We have to be different — and we're moving in that direction. We have to be where the veterans are."
Wilkie says more than half of veterans are now under 65 years old — which is a first since the end of the Vietnam War.