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Who Will Control Your Health Care?

Make plans to be sure your wishes are honored

Planning for future health care needs is important for everyone. VA offers an advance directive form to help you with this planning. An advance directive is a document that tells your health care team and loved ones your preferences if you are ever too sick to make health care decisions for yourself. Completing an advance directive provides your health care team and your loved ones with a record of your preferences.

For many people, the new words and phrases in the advance directive form can be overwhelming. It may even make it difficult to confidently fill out the form. It’s useful to review some of the words and phrases that are frequently used when planning your care in advance:

Advance care planning

'Advance care planning' is a general phrase that is used to describe planning for your future health care. You can engage in advanced care planning at any age; the earlier the better! Advance care planning may include thinking about your wishes, discussing them with others, identifying someone to speak for you, and recording your preferences.

Advance directive

An 'advance directive' is a document that tells your health care team and loved ones your preferences if you are ever too sick to make health care decisions for yourself. Your health care team and loved ones can use your advance directive to know your preferences.

There are two types of advance directives and the VA Advance Directive form includes both:

  1. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: a form that you can use to name any adult as your Health Care Agent. This person will have the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

  2. Living Will: a form you can use to record your preferences about your health care treatment. In an emergency, if you were not able to speak for yourself, your health care team can review your living will to learn what is acceptable or unacceptable to you. If you choose to appoint a health care agent, your health care agent may also use the living will. It can serve as a set of directions and help the health care agent make decisions in their role.

Health Care Agent

When deciding on a health care agent, it's best to choose someone you trust, who knows you well, and who is willing to advocate for you. They will be asked to speak for you if you can't make health care decisions for yourself. When you choose someone, you should talk to that person to make sure they are able and willing to be your Health Care Agent. They could be a neighbor, someone from your place of worship, a relative, or someone you served within the military.

Using My HealtheVet

When you’ve completed your advance directive, you can have the document added to your health records. This is important because your health care team needs to know you have an advance directive. Get started by signing in to My HealtheVet and sending your care team a Secure Message. In your message, attach your advance directive and ask to have it uploaded to your VA health record.

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