VA to probe deaths of 18 veterans to see if delay in care played a role

Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson announces 18 more veterans kept off an appointment list have died. The department is expected to release more details Monday as officials appear before Congress.

The Associated Press: VA Head Says 18 Vets Left Off Wait List Have Died
In a new revelation in the growing Veterans Affairs' scandal, the organization's acting head says that an additional 18 veterans whose names were kept off an official electronic VA appointment list have died. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said he would ask the inspector general to see if there is any indication those deaths were related to long wait times. If so, they would reach out to those veterans' families (Tang and Daly, 6/6).

Los Angeles Times: More Details From Audit Of VA Healthcare Scandal Expected Monday 
As the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs tries to assure congressmen that he is moving to address the VA healthcare scandal, his department is preparing to release more results of a nationwide audit of scheduling practices that have been denounced as misleading and harmful to veterans. The results are expected to be released Monday, as a House committee puts VA officials through another round of grilling over findings that VA employees falsified records to conceal long waits for medical appointments (Simon, 6/7).

Reuters: New VA Secretary Plans More 'Purchased Care' To Relieve Backlogs
The acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Friday the agency is putting out bids for "purchased care" that would allow veterans to be treated at other hospitals at the VA's expense while cutting backlogs at its facilities. "In far too many instances, in far too many locations, we have let our veterans down," Sloan Gibson told reporters after a tour of the sprawling Audie Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio. VA hospitals and clinics will be open during non-traditional hours to expand coverage, said Gibson, who was appointed acting secretary of the department on May 30 (Forsyth, 6/6).

Des Moines Register: Push To Let Vets Use Private Care Gains Traction
Robert Hunter, like many Iowa veterans, has few qualms about the quality of care he receives from the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the system's bureaucracy and lack of resources can be aggravating, and he wishes he didn't have to drive 90 miles from Fort Madison to Iowa City for most of his appointments. He might soon get his wish, thanks to a boiling national controversy over waiting times at VA hospitals and clinics. Some members of Congress have long pushed the VA to let more veterans use their benefits for care in private hospitals and clinics. That idea is gaining traction since reports surfaced that VA administrators in Phoenix and elsewhere covered up the fact that veterans had died while waiting months for care (Leys, 6/7).

Houston Chronicle: Texas Lawmakers Meet With Acting Secretary Gibson Over VA Scandal
Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson was in San Antonio Friday to address allegations regarding misconduct at local VA facilities. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, was one of the Texas lawmakers present at Audie Murphy Memorial VA Hospital to press the secretary about the recent controversy (Escalante, 6/6).

The Boston Globe: Massachusetts A Model For Veterans' Health Care
As the Obama administration and Congress wrestle with how to fix the veterans health care system, lessons are being drawn once again from an incubator of health care ideas: Massachusetts. The state boasts three of the nation's highest-rated VA hospitals and spends more per capita on veterans than any other, which has helped it avoid the long waiting lists plaguing some veterans hospitals, officials say. Massachusetts provides a series of alternative options, including contributing roughly $75 million annually to help veterans pay for private insurance. In addition, the state has encouraged philanthropic initiatives that help both physically and mentally ill veterans get care outside the VA health system (Bender, 6/9).

Denver Post:  VA Problems Extend Beyond Delayed Care, Colorado Vets Say
Two years ago, Navy veteran Michael Beckley learned that Veterans Affairs had repeatedly missed his prostate cancer. He said he got the news in a room "the size of a broom closet." In a hospital hallway, he had caught up with the urologist who tested him, and he asked for the results. The doctor took him into the closest room, told him the news was bad and said he was too busy to explain the test numbers. "Google it," he advised. Beckley, a former fighter pilot, sat on the floor and cried. The scandal rocking the VA centers on delayed care and falsified appointment records, but critics say the problems run deeper -; to quality of care and patient safety at many of the department's 1,700 health care facilities (Draper and Olinger, 6/8).

Modern Healthcare: VA's Sun Belt Facilities Stressed As Veteran Population Shifts There
Anthony Hardie, a disabled Army veteran who served in the first Iraq War, suffers from the so-called Gulf War syndrome. He lives an hour's drive from the closest Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Bay Pines, Fla. So when he gets lung "flare-ups" several times a year, he uses his private health insurance and goes to a private urgent-care center close to his home in Bradenton. ... one issue that hasn't gotten as much attention is the mismatch of VA facilities to where most veterans live. Of the approximately 20.8 million veterans living in the U.S., 9.6 million live in 14 Sun Belt states. Yet only about a third of the VA's 152 hospitals are located in those states (Herman and Landen, 6/6).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis 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.

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