Daily Dispatches
Michael Storemski talks with Dr. Christina Henson at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
Associated Press/Photo by Sue Ogrocki, File
Michael Storemski talks with Dr. Christina Henson at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

Can private care referrals fix the VA’s problems?

Healthcare

WASHINGTON—The delay in providing healthcare that is plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has some members of the House looking to the private sector for help.

While the VA requires its facilities to give a veteran care within 14 days of a first visit, an internal audit released last week found reality fell far short of that mark. A total of 121,000 veterans did not receive healthcare within the promised time. Many waited longer than 90 days before receiving care.

But the deaths of patients while waiting for care is what has ignited the ongoing furor about the VA’s inefficiencies. In addition to the reported deaths of 35 veterans in the Phoenix area, 23 more deaths nationwide have been linked to delayed access to VA care.

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The answer, according to some lawmakers who discussed the issue during a congressional hearing on Wednesday, is more private care for veterans.

“Delays in care of this length and magnitude are particularly hard to comprehend considering that VA has broad, well-established, and long-standing authority to refer veterans to non-VA providers to receive needed care,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Miller argued that sending veterans to the private sector to receive care is better than them receiving no care at all.

Three witnesses from private healthcare agencies testified during Wednesday’s hearing about how to further integrate private facilities into the veterans healthcare system.

TriWest Healthcare Alliance has begun a program with the VA, funded by taxpayers, that provides a network of services to veterans in nearby areas, according to David McIntyre Jr., the company’s president and CEO.

In addition to maturing the processes within TriWest as well as the VA, McIntyre wants to first identify the areas in the country where the VA system might not provide veterans the services they need.

McIntyre has high hopes for the joint effort of the VA and the private sector. “I’m confident our veterans will receive the timely, quality care they deserve,” he said.

Kristen Eicher
Kristen Eicher

Kristen is a World Journalism Institute intern.

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