Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System ‘Model’ for U.S., Secretary Says
The Veterans Affairs health care system is "a model for our nation," and the Department of Veterans Affairs is "truly one of America's good news stories," VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said in a "state of the VA" speech on Monday, the Washington Post reports.
Nicholson cited the use of electronic medical records as one of the reasons the VA health care system is successful. He noted that during Hurricane Katrina, doctors and nurses were able to treat without interruption patients transferred from VA facilities in New Orleans to VA hospitals in Houston because of the system's electronic medical records. "We were able in every case, after we got them resettled into another hospital, to dial up their medical record," Nicholson said.
He also noted that the VA needs to make improvements in certain areas. For example, the department needs to improve its efforts to assist veterans with the transition into civilian life by finding work and treating those with post-traumatic stress disorder. He also noted that about one in five veterans has diabetes, compared with one in 14 U.S. residents in general, and said VA providers now discuss diet and diabetes with patients with the disease, even if they have come in for treatment of other problems.
According to Nicholson, VA's 154 hospitals and more than 900 clinics will treat more than 5.3 million veterans in 2006. VA's health care budget has risen 69% in the past five years, and under Bush's proposed 2007 fiscal year budget, the department would receive "one of the biggest increases in discretionary spending for any federal agency --" $2.6 billion, to $35.7 billion, the Post reports (Lee, Washington Post, 3/28).