Broken Choices: Two years ago there was national outcry when it was revealed that veterans were facing massive delays in receiving medical care at VA facilities. In response, Congress cooked up a new program known as “Veterans Choice” which allows certain veterans to receive their care at private facilities on the VA’s dime. Two years later, virtually everyone involved in the Choice program agrees that it is an utter failure. Veterans say that the program forces them to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops just to get a simple medical appointment, and that the delays they face in getting an appointment through the Choice program often exceeds the wait times at VA facilities. The private medical facilities who offer services to vets through the Choice program say that it is an overly-complex system and that the VA often fails to reimburse them for their services in a timely manner. And VA healthcare workers call the Choice program a “black hole,” saying that they feel bad when they have to refer a veteran to a private doctor through the Choice program. In the end, it seems that little has changed, and that veterans still encounter massive hurdles when they seek healthcare from the VA.
Deadly Healthcare: Vietnam Veteran Rodger Holmes was well-known in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he had survived homelessness and recovered from alcoholism. In 2014, he turned to a VA medical center for for help in treating his liver disease, and that’s when his health began to rapidly deteriorate. He died shortly thereafter. In a report released last week, the VA Office of the Inspector General found that the treatment received by Holmes was inadequate in that the “care provider often did not provide the care or assess the patient thoroughly when seen.” The Inspector General concluded that “the lack of a thorough analysis of the patient’s condition may have contributed to his progressive decline and slower recovery.” Ultimately, the Inspector General laid much of the blame at the feet of hospital administrators who failed to have a back-up doctor available when the hospital’s hepatitis specialist reduced his hours. Its not clear that Holmes would still be alive if he received adequate healthcare at this Colorado facility, but that’s not really the point. The health of our veterans shouldn’t be jeopardized by inefficient treatment and staffing shortages
- Speaking Out: In an opinion piece, current VA Secretary Robert McDonald and former Secretary James Peake say that now is the time for Congress to act to fix the struggling agency. They implore our elected representatives to pass legislation that would (1) fix the way that veterans received private healthcare, (2) work to end veterans homelessness, and (3) overhaul the appeal process for benefits claims that have been denied.
- Privatization: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump says that privatization of VA healthcare is something that would be seriously considered were he to be elected president. This announcement puts Mr. Trump at odds with nearly every veterans’ group in the country.
- Fiduciary Problems: When the VA determines that a veteran is too disabled to to manage their own money, they appoint whats known as a “fiduciary” to manage their finances. In Ohio, a local news network has uncovered a startling case where the VA-appointed fiduciary is accused of grossly mismanaging and misusing the money of these severely disabled veterans.
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