By Debbie Gregory.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., unveiled a legislative proposal in an attempt to reform the Veterans Health Administration.
McMorris Rodgers’ plan would turn the VA into a government-chartered nonprofit corporation, much like the hospital networks already operating in the private sector today.
The “Caring for our Heroes in the 21st Century Act” would launch a “Veterans Accountable Care Organization” to run the VA’s health care facilities. It would help create a new voucher system whereby soldiers could use VA funding to get care from the private sector.
Veterans who are currently enrolled would be able to choose where they get care, while new veterans would be automatically enrolled in the new VetsCare Choice, giving them access to private health care.
McMorris Rodgers said the proposal would serve as the starting point for putting veterans in charge of their health care. A longtime advocate for members of the military and their families, McMorris Rodgers co-founded the bipartisan Military Family Caucus to provide military spouses and children a voice in Congress.
For a number of years, the VA system has been under attack, with allegations of mismanagement, inefficiency, claim backlogs and long wait times for medical care. The scandal came to a head when it was discovered that VA workers were getting millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses even as injured vets waited to get their claims approved, and veterans were dying due to lack of medical care as VA office workers faked records.
The bill would strengthen the power of VA’s management in the hiring and firing of the VA’s 330,000 workers, many of whom are in a government union. It would give management the flexibility to rewarding good workers and to get rid of the bad workers.
The VA already allows some veterans to receive care at non-VA health providers as a result of changes in the law resulting from the secret wait list scandals of 2014.
Under this $10 billion program, veterans waiting over 30 days for VA appointments and veterans who live more than 40 miles from VA medical facilities can get care outside the VA. But this program has is also fraught with problems, as the number of approved participating providers is limited.