VA Secretary Outlines Reform Plan, To Testify Before Lawmakers
On Monday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald outlined a plan to improve veterans' access to care and benefits, the Washington Post reports (Wax-Thibodeaux, Washington Post, 9/8).
The plan announcement comes amid several other efforts to bolster the VA health care system. Last month, President Obama signed a $16.3 billion bill (HR 3230) to overhaul VA and improve veterans' access to care following reports of long wait times at several VA health care facilities (California Healthline, 8/8).
Details of Plan
McDonald discussed several steps VA will take, including:
- Hiring additional providers and making sure the agency offers competitive salaries to retain staff;
- Improve the agency's culture to "embrace constructive dissent" and encourage whistleblowers to come forward (Washington Post, 9/8);
- Simplifying VA's benefit websites;
- Streamlining VA's bureaucracy (Kesling, Wall Street Journal, 9/8); and
- Taking additional steps to improve veterans' access to care (Oppel, New York Times, 9/8).
In addition, McDonald announced that VA has:
- Reached out to about 294,000 veterans who had not yet received care;
- Made almost one million referrals to providers outside the VA health care system (Wall Street Journal, 9/8); and
- Altered about 14,000 employee incentive plans to no longer include bonuses related to patient wait times.
In addition, VA is investigating more than 100 potential cases of wrongdoing by VA staffers (Washington Post, 9/8).
According to the Times, while McDonald outlined broad plans for VA, he did not offer many additional specifics that had not already been announced by Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson (New York Times, 9/8).
Upcoming Hearings on VA Scandal
In related news, McDonald on Tuesday is expected to testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs regarding a VA inspector general report on delayed care and manipulated waiting lists at a VA health center in Phoenix (Washington Post, 9/8). In addition, McDonald is expected to testify at the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing on Sept. 18 (Wall Street Journal, 9/8).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.