VApicFrom The American Prospect new blog post

Despite Assurances, VA Secretary Pushes Toward Privatization

Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, David Shulkin, has pledged not to privatize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). He understands, he says, that the VHA’s ability to provide care that, as studies document, is superior to those in the private sector is because veterans are treated in an integrated system that meets all their health needs. In testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations Veterans Oversight Hearing on May 3, Shulkin argued that unlike the private sector, the VHA “defines health far more broadly as physical, psychological, social, and economic.” Such a “unique national resource … often cannot be found in the private sector.”

In spite of this some of Secretary Shulkin’s recent decisions are very troubling. In March, Shulkin announced that the VHA would begin providing emergency mental health services to veterans previously ineligible for them. While that coverage is long overdue, the VA’s budget will likely push some already enrolled patients out of the VHA system and onto private providers. At the same time, Shulkin has proposed outsourcing optometry and audiology care to the private sector. In both cases, the changes threaten to jeopardize the kind of integrated services the VHA provides.  Read More

If You Think VA Wait Times Are Long, Try the Private Sector

BATTLE FOR VETERANS HEALTHCARE SG COVER (1)New blog post from The American Prospect

Congress Determined To Keep Private Sector In Vets’ Heath Care

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill mulling legislation to extend a program that lets veterans seek health care in the private sector have revived their longstanding complaints about long wait times for care at the Veterans Health Administration facilities. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Dr. Baligh Yehia, the agency’s assistant under secretary, appeared before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to testify on HR  369, a bill that would allow the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act to continue past its sunset date of August 2017.

In 2014, after revelations of wait-time problems at some Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, Congress created the three-year Choice program allowing eligible veterans to seek care in the private sector if they live 40 miles from a VHA facility or have to wait for more than 30 days for an appointment. The bill would let the VHA spend what remains of the initial $10 billion (about $1 billion) allocated to Choice on care in the private sector. READ MORE

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VHA Still in Trouble Because of Trump’s Hiring Freeze

As I write in this new blog in The American Prospect, Trump’s hiring freeze is hurting the VHA in spite of exemptions.

Hiring Freeze Spares Some at VA, But Shortages Still Loom

But veterans who rely on the VA for benefits, pensions, compensation, and health care are still in big trouble. Chronic staff shortages and underfunding have been at the heart of a VA crisis centered on long wait times for care. Though doctors, nurses, and certain other essential health-care professionals and support staff have been exempted from the freeze, that still leaves the VA with a multitude of vacancies that will hamper its ability to deliver high-quality care.

To be sure, the recent exemptions have led some who are worried about the VA’s future to breathe a sigh of relief. When Trump announced his blanket federal hiring freeze, it did not exempt anyone at the VA. That led lawmakers and veterans’ advocates to protest that the freeze would cripple the VHA. In response, acting VA Secretary Robert D. Snyder sent out a memorandum on January 27 exempting doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals and clinical support staff from the freeze. READ MORE

 

Trump Pick Could Help VA

This was just published on the Washington Monthly Site.  It’s a great piece by a Vietnam combat veteran who was also a psychologist at the VHA for many years.  Well worth the read.

VApicTrump’s Pick for VA Secretary Could Continue Obama’s Progress by Edgardo Padin-Rivera

January 20, 2017.

Will Trump Jeopardize Prostate Cancer Research

shulkin_vha-3-960x640Will Trump Jeopardize VA Prostate Research?

by Suzanne Gordon on January 3, 2017  Beyond Chron

President-elect Donald J. Trump will soon announce his pick for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and his nominee should honor the phenomenal research that the Veterans Health Administration provides. VHA research — the nicotine patch, the first implantable cardiac pacemaker, the Shingles vaccine, among many others — benefits not only veterans but all Americans.  Last year alone, according to VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin, VHA researchers published 9,480 papers in the scientific literature.

Most recently, the VHA, in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which has helped fund the research for many major treatments,  embarked on another critical research initiative.  The Foundation has donated $50 million to the VHA, making this, Shulkin says, the largest commitment to cancer research the VHA has ever received, one that will help deliver better care to veterans  particularly those in rural and remote areas.  Foundation, CEO and President physician Jonathan Simons says the foundation is eager to work with the VHA because it is the largest health care system in America, with the most men suffering from prostate cancer of any healthcare system or institution.  Because of this the VHA, he says, provides a unique opportunity to help solve some of the most vexing riddles about prostate cancer, democratize treatment through the VHA’s superior telehealth capacity, and accelerate the pace at which new drugs and treatments are made available to the nation’s veterans.   READ MORE