Reacting to allegations of delays in care and mistreatment of patients, Secretary Eric Shinseki announces that some veterans will be able to use private clinics and hospitals. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says officials must be held accountable. Sen. Blumenthal calls for an FBI probe.
The Wall Street Journal: Veterans Allowed More Care At Non-VA Facilities Amid Criticism Of Agency
The Department of Veterans Affairs began a program Thursday to increase capacity at clinics throughout the VA system and push to allow veterans to have greater access to health care outside the VA system, the department announced Saturday, revealing few details of the program. In response to President Barack Obama's May 21 announcement touting outreach efforts for veterans on appointment wait lists, the head of the VA, Secretary Eric Shinseki, directed the Veterans Health Administration to review scheduling processes and build a plan to cut wait times (Kesling, 5/24).
Los Angeles Times: VA Says More Veterans May Use Private Medical Services
Under pressure to improve care, the Department of Veterans Affairs will allow more veterans to use private medical services to meet growing demands for healthcare, the department announced Saturday. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a brief statement that as part of an expansion of services, veterans will be able to seek care at private clinics and hospitals in areas where the department's capacity to expand is limited. In such situations, the VA "is increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care," Shinseki said. The agency will provide more specifics on these options in the next few days, said Victoria Dillon, a department spokeswoman. It is unclear how much this service expansion will cost (Richter and Simon, 5/24).
Reuters: Obama Pledges To Uphold 'Sacred Trust' With U.S. Veterans
At the end of a week rocked by allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups at the Department of Veterans Affairs, President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to vow again to make sure veterans get the necessary medical care. "Let's keep working to make sure that our country upholds our sacred trust to all who've served," Obama said in his address, which aired on Memorial Day holiday weekend, when Americans honor their war dead. "In recent weeks, we've seen again how much more our nation has to do to make sure all our veterans get the care they deserve," he said. The VA said on Saturday it is taking steps nationally and locally to ensure veterans receive timely care, including providing access to private facilities when necessary (Rampton, 5/25).
The Hill: Vet Group: Private Care Decision A 'No-Brainer'
An Iraq and Afghanistan veterans group on Sunday said the administration's decision to allow more veterans to get care through private facilities should have been taken years ago. "It is a no-brainer," Derek Bennett, the chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said on "Fox News Sunday." "There have been plenty of studies of IG reports of GAO reports dating back to 2008 alleging gaming of the system," he added (Trujillo, 5/25).
Politico: Dempsey: VA Scandal Demands Accountability
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says everyone involved in the Veterans Affairs scandal must take responsibility and be held accountable. In a taped interview marking Memorial Day with ABC's Martha Raddatz at Arlington National Cemetery, Gen. Martin Dempsey said on "This Week" the situation demands action from those in charge. "It is outrageous, if the allegations actually are documented and proven -; and I suspect some of them will be," Dempsey said. "They've got to be held accountable" (Gass, 5/25).
The Hill: Dempsey Suspects Some VA Allegations Are True
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday said he suspects some of the allegations surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs will be proven true, and that someone will eventually have take responsibility for the entire VA. "Yeah, of course," Gen. Martin Dempsey said on ABC's "This Week" when asked if VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should be held accountable. "At some point, the chief executive, the chairman, whoever it is, has to take responsibility for the entire organization and its performance." The department is facing criticism of long wait times for veterans and some facilities are accused of falsifying reports to make it appear veterans received care faster than they did (Trujillo, 5/25).
The Associated Press: Lawmakers Call For Tighter Grip On VA Hospitals
The chairmen of House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on Sunday decried long waits and backlogs at the nations VA hospitals but stopped short of calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. "You've got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veterans," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House panel. "I think some people may by cooking the books" to suggest waiting times are shorter that they actually are, said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who chairs the counterpart Senate committee (Raum, 5/25).
Politico: Blumenthal Urges Justice To Investigate VA
Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Sunday urged the Justice Department to investigate allegations that Department of Veterans Affairs officials falsified and destroyed documents to cover up delayed care for some patients. "I believe that the Department of Justice has to be involved," the Connecticut Democrat said on CBS's "Face the Nation," adding he had privately urged VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to request an investigation. "We're talking now about evidence, credible and specific evidence, of criminal wrongdoing across the country in more than 30 places," explained Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee (Prior, 5/25).
The Wall Street Journal: Rep. Jeff Miller: VA Scandal 'Much Larger' Than Shinseki
The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs said the scandal engulfing the VA is "much larger" than the agency's embattled leader, and includes overmatched bureaucrats and inappropriate incentives. "You've got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veteran," Florida Rep. Jeff Miller said on CNN's State of the Union (Sparshott, 5/25).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.