VA Needs $17.7B To Resolve Treatment Delays, Acting Secretary Says
Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson on Wednesday told lawmakers that the department needs $17.6 billion over the next three years to resolve recently revealed wait time issues at VA facilities, the New York Times reports (Oppel, New York Times, 7/16).
During a hearing hosted by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Sloan outlined several issues facing the department, including "deliberate acts to falsify (appointment) data"; fear among VA employees about whistleblowing; and an attitude among supervisors at the agency that good performance numbers were more important than veterans' care needs (Zoroya, USA Today, 7/16).
He asked lawmakers for $10 billion to hire 1,500 physicians, as well as additional support staff, and to pay for veterans to see private providers. Sloan said the agency would use the remaining $7.6 billion to build eight new VA health care facilities and to lease another 77 facilities, among other infrastructure improvements (Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 7/16).
He said that with the funding, VA "in as little as two years ... can be the trusted provider of choice" and "turn these challenges into the greatest opportunity for improvement" (Kesling, Wall Street Journal, 7/16). Sloan also warned that if VA did not get the necessary funding, treatment "wait times [would] just get longer" (Modern Healthcare, 7/16).
Lawmakers Voice Concerns About Continued Delays, Lack of Trust
During the hearing and in comments afterward, lawmakers were divided over the request, the Journal reports.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), said, "After years of assertions from VA leaders at all levels that they had nearly every dollar and every person necessary to accomplish VA's mission ... it would be an act of budgetary malpractice to blindly sign off on this request" (Wall Street Journal, 7/16).
Meanwhile, committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released figures on Wednesday showing that about 636,000 veterans have appointments scheduled for at least a month later than when they would like to be seen, while 40,000 have been waiting for over four months to see a physician (USA Today, 7/16).
However, Sanders said that while "it's important we put out the current fire, unless we effectively deal with the long-term capacity problems, we'll be back here year after year" (Carney, National Journal, 7/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.