Monday, May 16, 2016

Congress Blew VA Quick Fix Leaving Veterans Waiting Even Longer for Care Under Choice

Despite $10B 'Fix,' Veterans Are Waiting Even Longer To See Doctors 
NPR 
Morning Edition May 16, 2016
Although the idea sounds simple enough, the fix hasn't worked out as planned. Wait times have gotten worse — not better. Compared to this time last year, there are 70,000 more appointments where it took vets at least a month to be seen.
Tony Lapinski, a veteran with severe back pain, kisses his wife, Michelle, at their home in Superior, Mont. Michael Albans for NPR
Many veterans are still waiting to see a doctor.

Two years ago, vets were waiting a long time for care at Veterans Affairs clinics across the country. At one facility in Phoenix, for example, veterans waited an average of 115 days for an appointment. Adding insult to injury, some VA schedulers were told to falsify data to make it look like the waits weren't that bad.

The whole scandal ended up forcing the resignation of Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs at the time.

Congress and the VA came up with a fix: Veterans Choice, a $10 billion program that was supposed to give veterans a card that would let them see a non-VA doctor if they were 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.

There was a problem, though. Congress gave the VA only 90 days to set up the system. Facing that extremely tight time frame, the VA turned to two private companies to administer the program and help veterans get an appointment with a doctor and then work with the VA to pay that doctor.

Although the idea sounds simple enough, the fix hasn't worked out as planned. Wait times have gotten worse — not better. Compared to this time last year, there are 70,000 more appointments where it took vets at least a month to be seen.
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