Planning ahead in the military is something familiar to all service members. The logistics of moving to another installation, upgrading equipment and preparing advance directives and beneficiaries before deployments are familiar to most.

But as these service members transition to Veteran status, they may not be aware that previously completed advance directive documents may no longer be valid.

Michael T. Kilmer urges fellow Veterans to ensure their preferences are documented.

Michael T. Kilmer, director of VA Eastern Colorado, served 15 years in the Coast Guard. He now works with post-9/11 combat Veterans transitioning from active duty and other Veterans.

In his current role, Kilmer leads the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, a tertiary hospital with a campus spread over 31 acres.

Urges Veterans to communicate health care wishes now

Kilmer’s time in the service and his experience in health care helps him support other Veterans in the need for advance care planning. Kilmer urges fellow Veterans to start communicating their health care wishes now and to make sure their preferences are documented.

To increase Veteran awareness, Kilmer shared that he even recently updated his own advance directive. “The directives are important because they allow the health care team to honor your wishes,” he said.

Dr. Kimberly Garner, national lead for the Advanced Care Planning via Group Visits Program, agrees and hopes more Veterans will participate in advance care planning group visits offered by many VA sites throughout the nation.

Group visits show advance planning is important

“By engaging Veterans and their trusted others in group discussions, we are able to facilitate Veterans sharing their experiences with one another,” Garner said. “Veteran participants have told us that, after they participated in a group visit, they understood why advance care planning is important.”

“National Healthcare Decisions Day is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to make sure their advance directive is complete, up-to-date and reflects their future preferences,” said Jennifer Koget, a licensed clinical social worker and VA acting national director of social work.

Additional information

Additional information about advance care planning is available:

Elisabeth M. (Beth) Skaggs is a technical writer for HSR&D, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

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Published on Jun. 16, 2021

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