Vets at Risk From Trump Attack on VA Unions and Free Speech

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VA Whistleblowers Beware: Tweeting Under Trump is No Two-Way Street`

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

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers at the Washington Post

imagesJust did this new blog post for the American Prospect.  Please read and share.

Fact-Checking Fact-Checkers on Privatizing Vets’ Health Care

In the debate over the future of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), no concept has attracted more controversy than “privatization.” Since wholesale privatization of the VHA is deeply unpopular among veterans and their advocacy organizations, groups like the Koch brothers-funded Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) argue that they do not support “privatization” of the VHA. As the CVA’s “Fixing Veterans Health Care” report, published earlier this year explains, the group just wants to give veterans “the same degree of choice that is available to other Americans,” with the federal government paying the tab.

Last week, The Washington Post entered the fray. Writing for the paper’s “Fact Checker” column, reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee gave Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Mark Takano of California, both Democrats, three out of a possible four Pinocchios (signifying “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”) for suggesting that the CVA and Trump transition team members support VHA privatization. According to Lee, the CVA’s position does not constitute privatization because, the “CVA has not proposed a wholesale transfer of VHA’s services over to the private sector—which is what ‘privatization’ usually describes.”

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Jeff Miller Doesn’t Believe Veterans Deserve the Healing Arts

Another blog post on how low people will stoop to deny veterans excellent care.

In Defense of Art in VA Hospitals

Conservatives are mad about spending government money on art, but it provides real medical benefits.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has taken a lot of heat lately about using money to purchase art for its hospitals and other facilities. Last week, Gail Collins, in a column in the New York Times, joined in the pile-on. While Collins defended the VHA and opposed its privatization, writing that veterans “are satisfied” with its services and that “the care is in many cases excellent,” she couldn’t resist a jab at the VHA for spending $670,000 on two sculptures that were placed in a blind rehabilitation center. Her conclusion? “Veterans healthcare for everybody! But maybe with less art.”

The issue of spending on art first emerged last year when Congressman Jeff Miller (R. FLA) , Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs, a staunch advocate of VHA privatization, lambasted the VHA for spending $483,000 for a sculpture in a hospital courtyard. For Miller, whom Donald Trump has promised to appoint to the post of Secretary of Veterans Affairs should he be elected, the issue was not the quality of the art used at VHA facilities but the fact that the VHA was using taxpayer money to spend on art, period. Miller called such spending “wanton and abusive.” 

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Veterans Health Is Really Good

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Studies Show Veterans Health Care Improving

When the House Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing on September 7 to assess the future of the Veterans Health Administration, federal lawmakers would do well to consider recent reports that challenge the continual drumbeat of negative and often unfair coverage and congressional criticism of the VHA.

One report, from the RAND Corporation, said that while there were differences in care and leadership culture across the system, researchers “did not find evidence of a system-wide crisis in access to VA care.” In fact, the report identified congressional policies as one of the main barriers to VHA improvements (despite the Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller’s apparent belief that firing VHA leaders is the solution to any access problems). The report noted that “inflexibility in budgeting stem[med] from the congressional appropriation processes,” and concluded that the hastily designed and implemented Veterans Choice Program, “further complicated the situation and resulted in confusion among veterans, VA employees, and non-VA providers.”

Though it received no media attention, another positive report on the VHA came this month from the Joint Commission, the independent nonprofit that accredits U.S. hospitals and health-care organizations. After surveying the VHA between 2014 and 2015, the commission found improvements in access, timeliness, and coordination of care, as well as in leadership, safety, staffing, and competency.  Read More.