This article is the first in a series of three informative articles on what veterans should know about their pharmacy benefits and the VA Pharmacy Program. Articles 2 and 3 of this series of columns will include important and helpful information from an exclusive interview with the Chief of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Pharmacy Department.
As recommended in all past articles in The Island News on Veterans Benefits, veterans, their family members, and care givers should read the detailed information on veterans’ pharmacy benefits at www.va.gov. They should also ask their health care team, which includes their primary care physician, specialty care physician, Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician’s Assistant (PA), Registered Nurse (RN), and VA pharmacist, to explain the VA Pharmacy Program and answer any questions they have. The Veteran’s Social Worker can also answer questions about the VA Pharmacy Program.
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System (RHJVAHCS) Pharmacy Team and Department is another one of the reasons that the RHJVA Medical Center and Health System has been in the top 10 percent of all public and private hospitals in the United States for customer satisfaction, quality of care, infection prevention, and dozens of other performance standards of care for over a decade.
Our Lowcountry South Carolina and Ga., VA Health Care System has ultra-modern pharmacy support in the VA Medical Center and through its’ Community Based Outpatient Centers (CBOCs).
The VA Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) system is an integral part of the total VA Medical System. We veterans who live in the service area of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System, which includes the coastal counties of S.C., north to I-95 and Orangeburg, and the NE coastal counties of Georgia (Hinesville and Savannah areas) are fortunate to have the only five-star hospital in S.C., and its CBOCs serving us.
Veterans should watch the VA’s 2012 YouTube Video titled, Consolidated Outpatient Pharmacies of VA (CMOP) at https://bit.ly/3C4CxFK and read the information at https://bit.ly/3ssTOoL to better understand their pharmacy benefits and the wide variety of pharmacy services provided by the VA.
Here is a rough summary of how the VA’s pharmacy system works:
- The Veterans’ doctor, PA, or NP prescribes the medication, explains the dosage, frequency, precautions, and strength of the medication to the veteran and explains how to get the medication, at the pharmacy window in the hospital or through the VA’s CMOP Mail System.
- The Veterans’ doctor, PA, or NP enters the prescription in the VA’s Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) program.
- The VA Pharmacist reviews the prescription, compares it to other medications the patient is on, verifies the medication is available through the VA’s pharmacy program, and if needed will counsel the veteran on all the safety issues and possible side effects related to taking the medication.
- The prescription becomes a part of the veteran’s medical records as soon as it is written/entered into CPRS.
- If the medication is critical the patient can pick the medication up at the pharmacy located in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. If the medication is not critical and the patient does not want to wait at the pharmacy, the medication will be processed through VMOP and mailed to the patient the next day.
Currently the seven VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacies (CMOP) Centers fill about 445,000 prescriptions per day, which are shipped in approximately 77 million packages per year. The veterans in S.C., and Ga., and other south eastern states in the CMOP area footprint are serviced by the CMOP in Charleston.
The VA mails most prescription refills through the U.S. Postal Service. For medicines that need to be kept refrigerated, or certain types of medical supplies, the VA may send a veteran’s order through FedEx or UPS.
CMOP deliveries take about 2.25 days for the veteran to receive his or her medication my mail. It takes on average of less than 15 minutes wait time to get medications at the RHJVA Medical Center Pharmacy, if the patient is at the Bee Street Location and wants to wait on a critical medication to be filled.
Ralph H. Johnson VA Pharmacy
Veterans and their family members should read about the Charleston health care pharmacy services a https://bit.ly/3M8M2bt. Veterans can find out how to refill their prescriptions, where to pick up new prescription orders, and how to safely dispose of their medicines at the VA Charleston health care facility.
Specifically, this Charleston Uniform Resource Locator (URL) tells veterans:
- How to refill prescriptions. See https://bit.ly/35CCrcf.
- Where to pick up new prescriptions. See https://bit.ly/3MacX6K.
- How to contact the VA. Contact us with questions about your prescriptions. See https://bit.ly/3Cag8Xy.
- How to safely dispose of your medicine. See https://bit.ly/3HxBT4D.
- How to change your address on file with the VA. See https://bit.ly/3sx4nXG.
Advice on Refilling Prescriptions
Veterans VA health care benefits include prescription medicines and medical supplies prescribed by your VA health care team.Be sure to order your refills at least 10 days before your supply runs out. With the VA’s Prescription Refill and Tracking Tool, veterans can refill their VA prescriptions, track their delivery, and create lists to organize your medicines.
Signing in to refill prescriptions
Veterans can sign in with their existing ID.me, DS Logon, or My HealtheVet account. If a veteran does not have any of these accounts, they can create a free ID.me account at the https://bit.ly/3IAr438 web site.
Phone prescription refills (automated refill line)
Veterans served by the RHJVAHCS can phone in refills by calling 843-577-5011, ext. 15220 or 888-878-6884, select 1, which is toll free from outside the Charleston area.
Mail prescription refills
Veterans need to mail back the refill request form that comes with their prescription to the provided address. Veterans should not drop off the refill form at the pharmacy when they pick up a new prescription. The VA can’t process refill requests on the same day that new prescriptions are picked up.
Pick up new prescriptions
You can pick up new prescription orders at one of our VA Charleston health care pharmacies. The VA requests that Veterans please not try to refill prescriptions in person, so their pharmacists can focus on providing care to Veterans with urgent needs and new prescriptions. Refills are only available online, by phone or mail.
Ralph H. Johnson Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Outpatient Pharmacy location and hours of operation
Located on the first floor. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
How to contact at the RHJVAHCS Pharmacy Department with questions?
Phone 843-577-5011, ext. 15220. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Safely dispose of your medicine
Veterans can drop off your expired or unwanted medicine at a MedSafe box. Disposing of your medicines safely can help protect other people as well as the environment. You can find the large blue MedSafe boxes at the Charleston campus, Outpatient Pharmacy, on the First floor. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Website at https://bit.ly/340r9hh can also help you locate an on-site receptacle in your community.
The next two articles, Part 2 and Part 3, of this series will cover more on what veterans, family members, survivors, and caregivers should know about VA Pharmacy Services. Part 2 and 3 will include:
- An exclusive interview with the RHJVAHCS Chief of Pharmacy Services.
- How to enroll in VA health care and pharmacy services?
- What is a VA medication reconciliation?
- How to let your VA health care team know what medications you are taking?
- Will Veterans’ health information be protected?
- What is the VA Center for Medications Safety?
- What are the VA Community Care Pharmacy Programs for dependents (CHAMPVA, etc.)?
As always, it is recommended that veterans ask a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to help them to understand their veterans’ benefits and how to apply for those benefits. You can either use a DAV, AMVETS, American Legion, VFW, or other Veteran Service Organization VSO or you can use a S.C. or Ga., County VSO. You can find a list of all S.C. County VSOs at https://bit.ly/3HNQLwt.
Two local Beaufort area VSOs are:
DAV Chapter 12 VSO
The Beaufort, S.C. Disabled America Veterans (DAV) Veterans Services Organization Chapter 12 in Beaufort has a resident Chapter Veterans Service Officer, Michael L. Vergantino. He meets with veterans every Thursday, at the Beaufort American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 70, from 8 to 11 a.m. Vergantino’s email address is MikeV@SelectiveRealtyGroup.com and his phone number is 843-301-2543.
Beaufort County VSO
The Beaufort County (Government) Veterans Service Office is located at 100 Clear Water Way, Beaufort, S.C. 29906. The phone no. is 843-255-6880, and the fax no. is 843-255-9445. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, by appointment only. The website is https://bit.ly/3uKeZUQ.
Please share this information with military members, veterans, and their families and survivors. You can read copies Larry Dandridge’s past articles at www.yourislandnews.com.
Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War wounded warrior, disabled veteran, ex-Enlisted Infantryman, ex-Warrant Officer Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, a Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Hospital, the Fisher House Charleston Good Will Ambassador, and the VP for Veteran Affairs for the local Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning book Blades of Thunder and a contributing free-lance writer with the Island News. Contact him at LDandridge@earthlink.net or 843-276-7164.