“Ask the Question: Did They Serve” Initiative Supports Health Equity

The MHA and the MHA Keystone Center have long been committed to addressing health disparities, a foundational concept that shapes the organizations’ quality improvement and safety efforts.

One effort in ensuring equitable outcomes for all has been supporting hospitals to address health disparities through consistent collection of accurate demographic data, such as race, ethnicity and language, in addition to disability and veteran status. By creating a standardized process for collecting this information, health systems can take strides to ensure all patients can reach optimal treatment outcomes.

A simple, yet critical, action healthcare organizations can take to improve patient demographic collection is implementing a screening question to identify service members and veterans. This ensures they get connected with appropriate and important resources available to them.

The most effective way to accurately identify patients’ military service is to ask the question, "have you or a member of your household served in the military?" It is part of the “Ask the Question: Did They Serve” initiative championed by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) in collaboration with the Veterans Health Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to prevent suicide among service members, veterans and their families.

Using "have you served?" instead of "are you a veteran?" allows those who may not consider themselves a veteran or are uncomfortable identifying as such to answer yes, ensuring they receive access to services and support they earned.

The MVAA will connect service members, veterans and their families to critical benefits and programs including healthcare and mental health, education and employment, legal aid and other resources. All services are free and confidential and can be accessed by calling (800) 642-4838 (1-800-MICH-VET).   

This simple question is a critical screening tool for the medical community and may provide an opportunity for a referral to be made to benefits veterans have earned. Flyers are available that healthcare providers can distribute to these patients.

The MHA Health Disparities webpage offers information about data collection. Members with questions may contact the MVAA.