VA Will Modify Scheduling System To Treat ‘Most Severely Disabled’ Veterans First
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi has announced that the VA will modify its scheduling system to ensure that the "most severely disabled" veterans receive treatment first, the AP/New York Times reports. Under the current system, which grants appointments on a first-come first-served basis, more than 300,000 veterans cannot get an appointment within six months of their request, and "thousands" more cannot get an appointment at all. According to Principi, the backlog is the result of a 1996 decision to open access to VA services to veterans who were not injured while in service. Those veterans currently account for 33% of all patients in the VA system. Principi said it is "unacceptable" to deny appointments to service-disabled veterans while veterans who were not wounded in service receive appointments. Under the new rule, the VA will grant priority to "severely disabled" veterans, even if the immediate health problem needing attention is unrelated to their military service, and to "moderately disabled" veterans who seek care for disabilities stemming from their service. The new policy would not affect emergency treatment, the Times reports. "We need to get back to our core mission: the service-disabled and the poor," Principi said. In another attempt to reduce appointment waiting times, the VA last month decided to stop "marketing" its services to veterans who may be eligible for services but are not aware of them, the AP/Times reports (AP/New York Times, 9/4).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.