Panel Holds Final Hearing on Veterans’ Health Care
A presidential commission on health care for soldiers on Friday held a seventh and final hearing that focused on problems with "moving patients through various stages of aid," the New York Times reports (Palank, New York Times, 6/30).
President Bush in March named former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), a disabled veteran of World War II, and University of Miami President and former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala as co-chairs of the nine-member commission. Bush formed the commission after the Washington Post published a two-part series that examined problems with the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the process by which injured veterans seek disability compensation (California Healthline, 4/16).
At the hearing, commission members said that current veterans are more likely than veterans of previous wars to require complicated treatments for multiple injuries -- such as shrapnel wounds, burns and brain injuries. In addition, many veterans with physical injuries experience post-traumatic stress disorder, commission members said.
Commission members also said that more veterans should receive care at home to reduce stress on families that in some cases must travel long distances to Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense medical centers. VA also does not provide adequate help to families that care for veterans at home, commission members said (New York Times, 6/30).
The commission this month plans to release a final report.
Shalala said that the report will include about a dozen recommendations and will determine "in a more systematic way" whether the reported problems at Walter Reed are indicative of problems throughout the health care system for veterans. "One thing that will make our report truly different is that it will be evidence-based, based on the current science and present-day practice," Shalala said.
Dole said, "Observations sometimes don't translate to reality," adding, "We don't want a bunch of Band-Aids that further complicate the system and create more problems" (Yen, AP/Washington Post, 6/30).
Dole and Shalala asked several members of Congress who have introduced legislation to improve health care for veterans to include the recommendations in their bills.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said, "We would welcome suggestions, absolutely" (New York Times, 6/30).
House Veterans' Affairs Committee ranking member Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) said, "I was heartened when the president formed this commission. ... I remain hopeful, even confident, that your work will take advantage of that support." Buyer added, "We do not need legislation to do the right thing for our service members -- we need leaders in the executive branch to take charge of their bureaucrats" (AP/Washington Post, 6/30).