More veterans could seek healthcare from private practices, hospitals

May 27, 2014

Private physicians and hospitals could be treating more veterans in the near future, as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working to alleviate its overburdened healthcare system amid reports of mismanagement that has led to backlogged treatment.

Physicians in private practices and hospitals could be treating more veterans in the near future, as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working to alleviate its overburdened healthcare system amid reports of mismanagement that has led to backlogged treatment.

The VA aims to “accelerate care” and enhance clinic capacity across the country by making more medical services available through its VA system of clinics, according to a statement released May 24. The VA will also allow more veterans to seek care at non-VA facilities in areas where clinics can’t handle more patients.

The rush to increase healthcare options for veterans comes as the VA faces reports that more than 40 veterans may have died awaiting treatment at a clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. Currently, 26 of the more than 1,700 VA hospitals and clinics are under investigation for mismanagement that is thought to have resulted in longer wait times for doctor visits, and possible cover-ups of additional deaths.

“In response to these allegations at the Phoenix VA Medical Center and a number of other facilities, the VA Office of Inspector General [IG] is conducting a comprehensive, independent review,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in a statement on May 22. “In addition to the IG’s independent review, I ordered the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to conduct a nationwide audit of all other major VA healthcare facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy.  That audit is being conducted now by more than two hundred senior VHA staff.  All teams are independent of the facilities they are visiting.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on May 22 that aims to add more accountability to the VA healthcare system and its 300,000 employees.

“VA’s well-documented reluctance to ensure its leaders are held accountable for negligence and mismanagement is tarnishing the reputation of the organization and may actually be encouraging more veteran suffering instead of preventing it. With all the problems VA hospitals and regional offices have recently had and new issues continually arising, we need to give the VA Secretary the authority he needs to fix things,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-Florida) chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who introduced the bill.

In 2013, the VA spent $4.8 billion on care at non-VA hospitals and clinics, according to the Washington Post. The department has yet to announce how much it plans to spend this year.