Billions of Dollars Later, Veterans Health Administration Still Failing

man-in-wheelchairBack in July 2014, I described how Congress was preparing to reward the Veterans Health Administration for its failure to ensure veterans get timely, adequate care, with a multi-billion dollar bailout.

Because Republicans had taken the majority in both Houses of Congress, the bailout was camouflaged as a method of allowing veterans more choice of healthcare providers, outside the government bureaucracy. The results are pretty bad, according to a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

Congress and the VA came up with a fix: Veterans Choice, a $10 billion program. Veterans received a card that was supposed to allow them to see a non-VA doctor if they were either more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or they were going to have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA provider to see them.

Wait times have gotten worse. Compared with this time last year, there are 70,000 appointments where it took vets at least a month to be seen, according to the VA’s own audit.

The VA claims there has been a massive increase in demand for care, but the problem has more to do with the way Veterans Choice was set up. It is confusing and complicated. Vets don’t understand it, doctors don’t understand it and even VA administrators admit they can’t always figure it out.

Rather than liberating veterans to seek the best care possible, the misnamed Veterans Choice reform has entangled more private doctors and hospitals in yet another bureaucracy! The Veterans Choice card, which some veterans were issued, is not a simple debit card they can use to pay for qualified medical expenses.

No, it is a card that allows doctors and hospitals, which treat those veterans, to submit claims to yet another broken-down government healthcare bureaucracy – run by the same gang that cannot provide care in its own facilities! (Recall, these private providers already have to deal with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers.)

Just like veterans have had to wait months to get treated, these providers have to wait months to get paid. The “reform” of the Veterans Health Administration has allowed it to spread its malfunction outside its own walls.

If we owe veterans more money so they can get good health care, let’s just give them the money and leave the bureaucracy behind.

Comments (4)

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  1. Wanda Jones says:

    John–I continue to be amazed at the disconnect between the reality of government-managed medical programs and the continuing call for a single payer healthcare system. What amount of reality does it take to counteract this seemingly simple solution? Just amazing.

    Wanda Jones
    San Francisco

  2. Barry Carol says:

    “If we owe veterans more money so they can get good health care, let’s just give them the money and leave the bureaucracy.”

    What the heck does that mean John? There are about 22 million veterans in the U.S. but only about 9 million are eligible for VA care because of limited capacity. The VA categorizes veterans into eight tiers with the highest priority being tier one and the lowest tier eight. Some vets need little or no care, some use alternative care like Medicare or commercial insurance instead and some need lots of expensive care on a regular basis. I personally am entitled to VA care (tier two) but I don’t use it because I have Medicare and a comprehensive supplemental plan plus Part D drug coverage.

    As it happens, the VA has specialized expertise in treating battlefield injuries like amputations and PTSD which civilian doctors see relatively little of in their practices. Vets who need to draw on that expertise can’t easily access it in the private sector even if they wanted to and even if they could, I have no idea how you would determine how many dollars to give them so they could pay private providers directly. It doesn’t make any sense.

    • Ron Greiner says:

      Barry – John is right. Lets give these Vets another option, that they will be smart enough to use without some bean counter in DC calling the shots, geez!

      Barry, your one-size-fits-all-bernie attitude needs correction. This is America, land of the free.

      Another option NEVER hurt anybody.

    • If the government has no way to figure out how much to pay private providers then how can the government figure out how much to pay the VA?

      Someone with a “battlefield injury” which needs amputation is amputated at an Army or Navy hospital, because he is still on active service.

      According to WebMD, 5.2 million Americans are diagnosed with PTSD every year. Veterans are a minority of those diagnosed with PTSD.

      Nevertheless, let’s pretend civilian doctors and therapists cannot treat PTSD. If that were true, they could train. Alternatively, the experts in the VA could be released into the civilian workforce and bill for treating veterans.