Recently, an 81-year old Army Veteran named James A. was referred by St. Cloud VA Healthcare System to community provider Midwest Clinic of Dermatology in St. Cloud, Minnesota, for an evaluation of skin cancer cells on his face. His facial vessels and nerves needed attention to prevent possible facial paralysis and neuropathy.

James underwent Mohs micrographic surgery, a surgical technique used to treat skin cancer.

During Mohs surgery, thin layers of cancer-containing skin cells were removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remained.

“Mohs offers the highest cure rate and is the most tissue-sparing procedure – particularly in the temple region,” said Dr. Daniel K. Elieff, dermatologist and James’ provider at the clinic.

James was so impressed with his community care experience, he sent a letter to the dermatology clinic and to Brent Thelen, director of VA’s St. Cloud Healthcare System.

Brent Thelen, St. Cloud Healthcare System director, reads a letter from Veteran patient.

The letter from James

“I thought you would like to know how your community care folks are doing. Dr. Elieff and his assistant, Sarah, projected sincere concern, informed me of exactly what was happening, what was going to happen as a result of the surgery and what to expect in follow-up.

We discussed treatment options and came up with the best ones based on my needs. This clinic is an excellent choice for VA’s Community Care Network of providers (CCN) and if asked, I’ll refer them with good marks.”

To date, more than 1.4 million community providers throughout the nation serve Veterans through CCN, from small-town family practitioners to specialists associated with some of the most well-known medical schools and institutions.

“Working with our community care providers amplifies VA’s service to Veterans,” said Dr. Thelen. “In building the VA Community Care Network, we’ve seen leaps forward in tackling challenges and solving problems that result in seamless care for our Veterans.”

Military connections meant a lot

VA believes Veterans recover faster and are more focused on good health when involved in their own health plan. Providing choices in the community allows Veterans to continue to receive the high-quality, timely and reliable care they earned and deserve.

“The doctor thanked me for my service and shared with me that, in 1941, his grandfather – in the United States Army Airforce – had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross,” James added. “That connection there means a lot to me.”

Elieff also feels a connection to the Veterans he treats.

“It’s a privilege to be able to help those who have given so much to this country with their service. Every service member deserves the best America has to offer.”

Pallas Wahl is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Community Care.

Share this story

Published on Feb. 14, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.3 min.

Views to date: 107


  1. Anthony P Myers March 3, 2021 at 9:22 pm

    I’ve had nothing but fantastic car and support via community care for pain management. I honestly would give 100 out of 10. I’m grateful and hopeful my community care continues.

  2. Greg Kelley February 22, 2021 at 11:12 am

    At Phoenix Home Care and Hospice, we’re very glad that we get to partner with the VA to provide caregiving, nursing, therapy and end of life care in the homes of Veterans. We contract with the VA and the differences we get to make are great. We’re glad to be one of the at home options for Veterans in Missouri and Kansas.

  3. DANNY E KING February 18, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    I, too, recently had a VA arranged appointment with a local doctor and lab. I live approximately 2 hours one way from the Atlanta VA facility. Although I had received quality care from there, I was pleased when they arranged an appointment only 25 minutes from home. The small town facility gave me the same treatment, and the local doctor was professional and communicative. Given the travel and appointment difficulties at our major VA centers, I applaud the effort to permit veterans like myself to use local resources to maintain our health. Request the VA continue to expand this program. Should I not receive the proper care in the future, I will readily advise the VA.

  4. Mel Thomason February 18, 2021 at 12:10 am

    My experience has been the opposite. I had used it several times when it was called Community Care. Then Trump renamed it Mission Program so he could take credit for it and installed a buddy in charge. Once it went from Tri-West to OPTUM I have not been able to schedule an appointment.

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Houston VA swore in new honorary police chief 10-year-old DJ Daniel who is battling terminal spinal and brain cancer. “Welcome aboard, Chief.”

  • Navy Veteran Jesse Allison Linam was a chief fire controlman during WWII in the South Pacific from 1940 to 1946. He receives care at the new Texarkana CBOC.

  • New genetic research discoveries may one day help doctors better screen Veterans at risk of suicide and prevent it in the first place.