When our troops go into battle, they focus on accomplishing their mission. Providing health care to veterans should work the same way. Veterans’ health care reforms should answer how veterans can be served best.
Unfortunately, too many people in Washington are more concerned with maintaining the VA’s institutional status than giving veterans the best care. This mindset jeopardizes care for our heroes who should be receiving quality, timely care from the doctor or hospital of their choice.
The Current Approach Is Not Working
More than three years have passed since the 2014 Phoenix wait time scandal, and overall wait times have barely improved. In March of this year, the VA inspector general found that 36 percent of veterans in North Carolina and Virginia were waiting more than one month to receive care.
VA facilities across the country are riddled with problems as veterans suffer under inept bureaucracy. The Boston Globe exposed one VA hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire for its insect-ridden conditions and long wait times—despite the fact this hospital had a four-star rating. One of its operating rooms was infested with flies and had to be shut down. Patients with serious illnesses were waiting months for care. Some became permanently disabled because they didn’t get treatment in time.
The VA understands it has serious managerial and administrative problems. That’s why the Choice Program was introduced as a temporary solution, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Only a portion of veterans qualify for the program, which allows them to seek private medical care if they live 40 miles or more from a VA facility. Even those who qualify often can’t find a private provider willing to treat them because the VA is slow to reimburse the cost of care.
Veterans Must Come First
The VA needs to be strengthened so veterans can receive the care they deserve. But strengthening the VA doesn’t mean pumping more money into a one-size-fits all system. A veterans-first policy means giving them more options so they can receive care from the provider of their choice.
Veterans must come before what would benefit the VA as an institution. VA choice reform focus on policies that will accomplish their mission, regardless of who is providing the care.
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