The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been significantly increasing Veterans referrals to private doctors, following the scandal over unacceptable patient wait times at numerous VA facilities and the allegations of falsified appointment records.
The VA’s reputation has been damaged by claims that multiple Veterans had died while waiting for treatment from the VA healthcare system. Some VA employees have been accused of covering up scheduling blunders. The scandal ultimately led to the resignation of formerVA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the eventual appointment of Robert McDonald.
Since the scandal broke, the VA has made nearly 840,000 referrals for Veterans to receive care from private doctors. This is an increase of over 166,000 referrals from the same period last year.
A $16.3 billion VA overhaul was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama. Approximately $10 billion is being allotted to pay private healthcare providers to treat Veterans who can’t get timely appointments at their local VA facility. The law also includes $5 billion to hire more doctors and other medical and mental health professionals.
At the National American Veterans (AMVETS) convention, McDonald told a group of Veterans that 1,000 new doctors, nurses and clerks were needed at the Phoenix VA hospital alone. And another 500 new doctors, nurses and clerks were needed at the VA facility in North Las Vegas.
“Until we get systems up to capacity, we’re expanding our use of private care and other non-VA health care to improve access for Veterans experiencing excessive wait times,” McDonald told the Veterans at the convention. “And we’re monitoring non-VA care to ensure Veterans receive the best that they deserve.”
The VA spent about $4.8 billion last year on medical care at non-VA healthcare providers. This factored to be about 10% of the health care costs for the Veterans Health Administration, the agency’s healthcare arm.
McDonald’s appearance at the AMVETS convention was part of a tour that has included stops at the Phoenix VA hospital, a disabled veterans’ convention in Las Vegas, and the VA’s Memphis medical complex.
With adequate funding from the government, vigilant attention from the new VA secretary, and the support of the American public, Veterans can look forward to significant improvement to the VA healthcare system and their privatized care through the VA.
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Military Connection: More Vets Getting Private Care: By Debbie Gregory