Moving Forward After VA Loses Top Leader

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Following the swell of controversy over allegations of misconduct, records falsification, and apparent systemic problems deep within the VA health care system, fellow disabled veteran Eric K. Shinseki resigned as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in late May. His decision to take responsibility for these actions opens the opportunity for new leadership to implement solutions necessary to fix the issues that ultimately led to such a large-scale crisis.

Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, named in Shinseki’s place, has vowed swift corrective actions to the extent of his authority, per the findings of system-wide audit.

The audit found more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting in excess of 90 days for an appointment at VA facilities, with an additional 64,000 requesting medical care but never making it onto VA’s waiting list.

Secretary Gibson has mandated immediate changes to the health care system, to include: the implementation of new patient satisfaction measures to collect real-time data from veterans on the services and care they receive; removal of the 14-day scheduling goal from employee performance contracts; independent, external audits of scheduling practices; a hiring freeze at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) central office and 21 VHA Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) regional offices to establish suitable leadership; and increased accountability of senior leadership at problematic facilities or clinics.

Specific to the VA facility in Phoenix, where allegations first arose, Secretary Gibson has directed additional resources to immediately address scheduling, access and resources issues to include the hiring of additional staff, deployment of mobile medical units to care for veterans awaiting care, modifying contract operations so veterans can obtain community-based care when needed, and removing senior leaders as appropriate. These reforms will apply to all affected facilities indicated by the audit.

DAV’s legislative staff continues to address Congress on the issue of proper funding within VA as it relates to the access crisis. Infrastructure and information technology have been chronically underfunded despite the recommendations of the Independent Budget, produced annually by DAV in concert with other veteran service organizations. These recommendations have gone ignored by lawmakers each year, despite warnings that shortfalls would potentially lead to the imbalance between VA health care availability and veteran demand.

 

  • milchap

    It is interesting to read of the “apparent systemic problems” today, especially since the illustrious leader of the DAV recently wrote disparaging remarks directed toward anyone who mentioned that there were systemic problems. Check out the previous comments to see his remarks.
    I wrote my congressmen and senators concerning what I see to be a problem that has a rather immediate fix. We send vets to the CBOC and they are examined by the physician and an appointment is made at the VAMC. If a prescription is needed, it is sent for at the VAMC pharmacy. A quick fix would be to allow the CBOC physician to do more than physicals and referrals. Allow them to prescribe to local pharmacies and have the pharmacies bill the VAMC. Also, allow the CBOC to perform routine procedures. As the HSC at our local DAV Transportation Office, I arrange transportation for patients going to the VAMC to have their toe nails trimmed, their wounds dressed, and for other routine care.
    Think of how much more can be done at the CBOC than we allow them to do now.
    I asked my former primary care physician why he was leaving the CBOC to return to private practice. His answer: “To practice medicine”.

  • Gerald

    VA, like all gov’t agencies, needs a seasoned CEO from the business world with he/she and all Sr. Mgr’s only eligible for bonuses CONTINGENT on waste cutting AND service improvements as measured by an impartial 3rd party. Tort reform is necessary too as VA Dr’s, like private practice, carry inordinate amounts of malpractice coverage not to mention what VA potentially pays out.

  • Laurel

    I am a VA employee, 27 members of my immediate family were/are vets. So I understand the full measure of what is required; what I don’t understand is the attitude of some of the vets (who have never been deployed) and the hand-outs they expect. The vets = patients that I come in contact with have repeatedly told me that “SOMEONE” promised them free health care. I’d like to meet “someone” and ask where they came on that incorrect piece of information. It takes money to offer services, it takes money from those who have AGREED upon enrollment to pay their co-pays to continue those services. The VA has to come into the 21st (best industry practices) century to keep up. Period. Health care is NOT free; someone pays for those services. That is Federal tax payers, and frankly, I’m angered by the “gimme, gimme’ I experience. Particulary from vets who enlisted, went through boot camp, where stationed in the contigous US, and the closet they came to imminent peril was Mess Call. My father and father-in-law where CAREER military; 20+ years each. THEY were deployed, fought in Germany, Japan, N. Africa and ‘Nam. They ACTUALLY served, not just stationed at a post. DAV how about campaigning to have those vets who need to pay their financial obligations to their VA’s actually pay their bill? We haven’t had the draft in 40 years. No one has required anyone to enlist in the latest conflict. SERVING your country means just that; not sponging off of it.

    • DAV

      Laurel, every veteran is equal regardless of whether his or her injuries or illnesses are a result of service stateside, overseas, in combat or in training. Our service officers and other staff and volunteers are trained to help counter misinformation by accurately informing veterans and their families of what the VA offers, what they are eligible for, what they are not eligible for and how they must go about acquiring what they have earned. While encountering the uninformed can be understandably frustrating, it is our duty to exercise patience and treat EVERY veteran with respect.