Veteran Groups To Commission: Fix, Don’t Dismantle VA

April 22, 2016

The Commission on Care is wrapping up its report to Congress on how best to organize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for the next generation of veterans.

With roughly two months left for the Commission to write its recommendations, MOAA joined several veteran organizations at a meeting with commissioners on April 18 to discuss the Commission's work, but more importantly to convey what type of health system veterans want, need, and deserve.

The veterans panel offered stories, survey data, and viewpoints on four critical topic areas:

  • The role of the VHA
  • The role of non-VA (community care) health care providers
  • How veterans will need to access care in the future
  • How to strengthen veterans' health care programs

MOAA reiterated many of the points outlined in a letter sent earlier this month, disagreeing with some who say the VHA is “broken beyond repair.” MOAA acknowledged that the system is in need of immediate attention and reform, but urged the commissioners to find a way to fix the problems and not simply migrate the system to community-based services. MOAA is concerned such a move would lose the best aspects and most critical functions of the system, such as spinal cord and polytrauma care.

The group praised VA Secretary Robert McDonald's MyVA transformation efforts, asking the commissioners to keep this in mind as they formulate their recommendations.

“The integration and coordination of care is critical in any health system,” said MOAA Deputy Director of Government Relations Cdr. René Campos, USN (Ret). “Not just veterans, but American medicine relies on VHA work, and these linkages are important, unlike any health system in the public sector.”

Campos reminded commissioners in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo., and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in 2005 and 2012, the VA was able to support thousands of displaced veterans to ensure continuity of medical care and benefits because of VA's electronic health record.

Panelists talked about the importance of talking and listening to other veterans, citing a recent Veterans of Foreign Wars survey. The survey also showed quality of care, availability of appointments, travel distance, and cost as the top four reasons for veterans using VA health care.

“If you are going to eliminate the functionalities of the VA, you actually are reducing choice, not adding choice,” said Bill Rausch, Executive Director of Got Your Six.

Top VA leaders spoke to the commission later in the day, providing a progress report on changes in the health system to date. Many of these changes have had a positive impact on veterans care, such as: a new employee and leadership training program; one-day stand downs to reduce the backlog of urgent care appointments; real-time customer satisfaction feedback; and expansion of clinical hours to see more patients-all with a focus on care that is veteran-centric.

MOAA recognizes the tough job ahead for commissioners as they craft their report to the President and Congress. We greatly appreciate the significant amount of time commissioners gave to hearing our concerns and recommendations.

 

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