Holding the VA Accountable

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Holding the VA Accountable

Holding the VA Accountable

It’s been over a year since the long wait times for veterans at the VA were uncovered — yet the inadequacies are not limited to wait times. House Republicans have not let up in pursuing a better alternative — and we will not stop until our veterans are given the health care they need and deserve.

Below are articles highlighting the mismanagement that permeates the entire veterans affairs health care system — articles that remind us we still have work to do.

 

Wait Lists Grow as Many More Veterans Seek Care and Funding Falls Far Short,”
New York Times
June 20, 2015

“One year after outrage about long waiting lists for health care shook the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency is facing a new crisis: The number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems, department officials say.

“According to internal department budget documents obtained by The New York Times, physician workloads — as measured by an internal metric known as ‘relative value units’ — grew by 21 percent at hospitals and clinics in the region that includes Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina; by 20 percent in the Southern California and southern Nevada regions; and by 18 percent in North Carolina and Virginia.

“The ‘daily obligation rate in medical services’ inside the Veterans Health Administration — the part of the department that handles medical care — is $166 million, or 9.2 percent higher than last fiscal year, according to a presentation last week for senior department leaders. Costs for drugs and medications have risen by nearly 17 percent, with much of the increase because of the new hepatitis C treatment, according to the document.

“The department’s inspector general eventually concluded that ‘the systemic underreporting of wait times resulted from many causes, to include the lack of available staff and appointments, increased patient demand for services, and an antiquated scheduling system.'”

Read the full article here.

 

Government Audit Finds Improper Behavior at Philadelphia VA,”
New York Times

May 28, 2015

“Two senior Veterans Affairs officials in Philadelphia acted improperly when subordinates were charged money to attend a work-related party featuring psychic readings, resulting in personal profits for the spouse of one official, according to an audit released Thursday.

“Employees reported that Lucy Filipov, the assistant director in Philadelphia, hosted a party last June where employees were charged $30 or more to attend, specifically for the purpose of having their fortunes told or receiving psychic readings of their deceased loved ones, the report said.

“The IG reported that money was collected at the party and that Filipov gave it to the wife of Gary Hodge, director of the office’s pension management center, for the readings.

“The VA did not dispute the IG’s findings and said it was ordering fresh ethics for Filipov and Hodge as it reviews possible disciplinary action. They also were told that their activity “will not be condoned or tolerated,” wrote Willie Clark, the eastern area director for the Veterans Benefit Administration.”

Read the full article here.

 

What Veterans Affairs won’t pay for: Chance for the wounded to have kids,” The Washington Post
May 26, 2015

Under a 23-year-old law, VA is prohibited from covering IVF. Congress adopted the ban as the result of conservative opposition to assisted reproduction and concern that some fertilized embryos might be discarded.

“Now, however, veterans and lawmakers from both parties are pushing to overturn the ban. They argue that it is outdated and that IVF is widely accepted and performed worldwide.

“But IVF costs tens of thousands of dollars and often takes multiple tries to produce a viable pregnancy. Combat-wounded veterans say the financial burden and emotional toll are often overwhelming, especially on top of learning to live as an amputee or in a wheelchair. Some say that they have to take on debt or skip getting an education afforded them under the GI Bill so they can rush back into the job market, or that they have to rethink plans to start a family altogether.

“The Defense Department changed its policy in 2012 and said it would cover IVF for active military members in recognition of the increasing number of pelvic fractures and injuries to reproductive organs suffered during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,830 troops have suffered such wounds since 2003, according to the Pentagon. That is in addition to the thousands of veterans who have spinal-cord injuries, which can also impact fertility.”

Read the full article here.

 

Boehner: Little Progress at VA Year After Shinseki Departure,” Associated Press
May 21, 2015

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is no better off a year after former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking health care and falsified records to cover up the delays, House Speaker John Boehner charged Wednesday.

“In a speech on the House floor, Boehner said the VA has made little progress since Shinseki resigned, despite a new law that overhauled the agency and authorized $16 billion in new spending over three years.

“The number of patients facing long waits is about the same, Boehner said, while the number of patients waiting more than 90 days has nearly doubled.

“The VA’s problems are so deep it can’t even build a hospital, Boehner said, referring to a half-finished project in Denver that is $1 billion over budget.”

Read the full article here.

 

VA hospital complex in Aurora would lose two buildings under proposal,”  The Denver Post
May 18, 2015

“U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on Monday laid out a short-term plan to avoid a shutdown of the troubled Aurora medical complex as well as the first substantial cuts to control runaway costs.

“In a memo to leaders of the Senate and House veterans’ affairs committees, McDonald said veterans will have to do without a planned community living center and a post-traumatic stress disorder residential clinic.  He acknowledged the moves were not “the best decision for Colorado veterans,” but were ” the only option available” under a Congressional mandate to cut costs.

“McDonald also said his agency would move $150 million from other budget-line items as stop-gap funding so construction wouldn’t stop by Sunday, when the project is expected to hit its $800 million spending cap.

“That would only work, McDonald wrote, if Congress were to newly authorize the project to spend up to $1 billion, allowing construction to continue uninterrupted until about August as funding negotiations continued to cover the remainder needed to finish the job.

Read the full article here.

 

Veterans Affairs improperly spent $6 billion annually, senior official says,” Washington Post
May 14, 2015

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has been spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of federal contracting rules to pay for medical care and supplies, wasting taxpayer money and putting veterans at risk, according to an internal memo written by the agency’s senior official for procurement.

“In a 35-page document addressed to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the official accuses other agency leaders of ‘gross mismanagement’ and making a ‘mockery’ of federal acquisition laws that require competitive bidding and proper contracts.

“Jan R. Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, describes a culture of ‘lawlessness and chaos’ at the Veterans Health Administration, the massive health-care system for 8.7 million veterans.

“‘Doors are swung wide open for fraud, waste and abuse,’ he writes in the March memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post. He adds, ‘I can state without reservation that VA has and continues to waste millions of dollars by paying excessive prices for goods and services due to breaches of Federal laws.’

“‘These unlawful acts may potentially result in serious harm or death to America’s veterans,’ Frye wrote. ‘Collectively, I believe they serve to decay the entire VA health-care system.’

Read the full article here.

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