Different people want different things when it comes to their health care. Advance care planning ensures that your loved ones and your health care team know what’s important to you and what your preferences are for treatment now and treatment in the future.

Your health care team can help you decide what type of advance care planning is right for you, including advance directives and goals of care conversations.

What is an advance directive?

If you are ever too sick to make health care decisions for yourself, your surrogate will make health care decisions for you. You can name a specific person to be your surrogate in a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which is type of advance directive. That person will be known as your health care agent.

When deciding on a health care agent, it’s best to choose someone you trust and who knows you well because they will be asked to represent you when you can no longer do so. When you choose someone, you should talk to that person to make sure they are willing to be your health care agent and willing to carry out your wishes.

Happy family with pets

It’s important to let others know your preferences

A living will is another type of advance directive, and it can help your surrogate and health care team understand what medical and mental health care you would or would not want if you experienced an unexpected illness or emergency in the future. You can only list general preferences about treatments in a living will, so it’s important to discuss your living will with your surrogate and health care team so that they will know how to interpret your preferences in the future.

VA’s advance directive is VA Form 10-0137A. A member of your health care team can assist you with this form and can answer any questions that you have.

What is a goals of care conversation?

Do you have a serious illness or are you at risk of developing one? If so, it’s important to think about what matters most to you. A goals of care conversation between you and your health care team can help you think about your values and goals for your current care, not just care in the future. Based on that conversation your healthcare team can help you make a specific plan for treatment.

You might complete an advance directive as part of a goals of care conversation, especially if you want to name a trusted loved one as your health care agent, but your health care team can help you decide if that is right for you.

Advance care planning stories

All Veterans deserve to have their wishes heard and health care preferences honored. Check out this series of animated stories that highlight why advance care planning is important for everyone – whether healthy or ill, young or old, receiving health care in a clinic, hospital or at home: animated stories that highlight why advance care planning is important for everyone.

By Hans Petersen is senior writer/editor for Digital Media, VHA Office of Communications. An Air Force Veteran, Hans also served two years in the Peace Corps and worked for 20 years in broadcasting before joining VA.

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Published on May. 3, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 119


  1. Kris Colburn May 11, 2022 at 2:11 am

    My primary care doctor put me in contact with a VA social worker. They know what to do with the info and can answer questions.

  2. Robert Van Fleet May 7, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    Would be helpful if we had the same help at our primary care providers. Every time I have asked for my primary provider to assist me, I either get the run around or just flat out refuse to help.

  3. Glenn Philip Eisen May 5, 2022 at 10:42 pm

    Great article. Unfortunately my primary care doctor at the Bronx NY VAMC seems to be able to tell me how to get my updated advanced directive copies entered into my healthcare records. There is a need for provider education at this facility.

  4. Clifton Keely May 5, 2022 at 6:34 pm

    I wrote a comment of about 6 lines and when I tried to post it it was lost and it said my cashey was empty?

  5. Ora M. Roberts May 5, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    My husband is a veteran. He is sick. He needs help. How can I help him best?
    May 5, 2022o

  6. George Tabor May 3, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    Very helpful article. I printed the form out and will sit down with my wife to complete it. Thanks.

Comments are closed.

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