VA reportedly planning to funnel billions into private care

Matt Saintsing
January 14, 2019 - 3:23 pm

Photo by Seth Slabaugh/The Star Press-Muncie

The Department of Veterans Affairs may transfer billions of dollars from the agency’s coffers to private health care providers— in an attempt to give veterans more choices over their healthcare, but set to reignite debates over privatization of the nation’s most extensive health care system. 

Citing proposed guidelines, the New York Times reported over the weekend that individual veterans would receive more streamlined care through “privately run hospitals” and have the government pick up the bill, similar to how the VA Choice program works. Vets could also expect increased access at walk-in medical clinics, “which would serve as a bridge between VA emergency rooms and private providers,” according to the Times. 

The VA declined to confirm the Times' reporting but a spokesperson tells Connecting Vets that the VA MISSION Act grants the VA Secretary “the authority to set access standards that provide Veterans the best and most timely care possible—whether at VA or with community providers,” adding that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie is looking at "a variety of access standard models, but no final decisions have been made. 

VA's access to care standards has been a hot button issue, especially in light of the VA MISSION Act, which collapses VA's community care options into one system. 

“We believe the access standards should put the veteran first— that the focus should be on the veteran getting care, not the VA delivering care,” Concerned Veterans of America executive director Dan Caldwell tells Connecting Vets. “That means having the ability to choose where they wish to receive care.

He adds that the VA “needs to be a good choice, but not the only choice.” 

That feeling, however, is not shared among all veterans groups.  

“This is troubling,” says Melissa Bryant, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). 

“This needs to be an integrated decision between the clinician at the VA and the veteran before they go out into the community,” says Bryant. “Community care has always existed for routine and specialized care, but the care the VA provides is critical, it’s foundational.”

When it comes to access standards, multiple veterans organizations say their voices are not being heard at VA. “We are in the boat of those organizations who are concerned with transparency at VA” adds Bryant.” 

“We have not received any real clear indication from the administration or VA on where the access standards are, what they intended to intact,” says Carlos Fuentes, legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). 

 “Unfortunately, we haven’t been consulted or been able to advise as much as the administration as much as we'd like.” 

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