VETERANS AFFAIRS: Hospitals Wasting Money, GAO Finds
A GAO report has found that the Department of Veterans Affairs is "wasting up to $1 million a day on unneeded medical facilities" and has cast doubt on the agency's ability to mend the problem. In a report released yesterday, the General Accounting Office noted the VA system serves a dwindling population, from "49,000 patients a day in 1989 to 21,000 in 1998." As the veteran population drops, usage is expected "to decline significantly over the next 20 years." The report noted that the VA restructuring plan "gives too much power to vested interests likely to compete against each other: medical schools, unions, veterans organizations and state veterans agencies." The VA had no immediate comment on the report (AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 7/22).
Nevada VA System Riddled With "Life-Threatening Problems"
Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) inquiry into his state's veterans health care system yielded disturbing results, among them: "EEG machines that weren't being used," "excessive inventories of supplies," and "long waiting periods." Reid, who asked the VA inspector general to look into care in southern Nevada after receiving "hundreds of complaints," said, "[W]hen you realize the waits were for things like biopsies on prostate glands ... [that] can mean the difference between life and death." Bucking national trends, Nevada's VA system is growing, from 109,000 outpatients in 1994 to almost double that in 1998. Such "rapid growth" could be contributing to the problem. Some of the remedies include "[n]ew bookkeeping practices," increased staffing and "sharing [equipment] with a community hospital to reduce operating costs" (Smith, Las Vegas Sun, 7/21).
Senators Calls On Clinton To Restore Funding
Sens. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) will hold a press conference today to release a report detailing the "devastating" impact the Clinton administration's reduced VA budget would have on the veterans' community. The senators said the report will show that proposed funding levels would "result in shortfalls in funding necessary to provide current health care service levels for our nation's veterans" (release, 7/22).