New VA Secretary orders independent audit of scheduling practices

Robert McDonald promised to fix problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs that kept veterans from getting care. His comments came in a speech to a Disabled American Veterans conference and after touring the Phoenix veterans hospital at the epicenter of the scandal that prompted a change in VA leadership and a major increase in funding from Congress.

The New York Times: New V.A. Chief Promises To Mend Practices
In his first public address since taking the helm of the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Robert A. McDonald vowed on Saturday to restore trust in the agency by initiating an independent audit of its scheduling practices and holding poorly performing officials accountable. Speaking to about 4,000 people at the Disabled American Veterans national conference [in Las Vegas], Mr. McDonald acknowledged systemic problems that have plagued the agency; attempts to "game the system" to hide problems; and a culture that failed to protect whistle-blowers who pointed them out (Curtis, 8/9).

The Wall Street Journal: New VA Secretary Seeks Independent Review Of Scheduling Practices
The Department of Veterans Affairs will launch an independent review of its scheduling practices beginning in the fall, the VA announced Friday. In one of his first major announcements as VA secretary, Robert McDonald said the Joint Commission, the largest health care accrediting body in the country, will a make a sweeping, independent review of the VA's scheduling practices (Kesling, 8/8).

The Associated Press: VA Chief Makes 1st Hospital Visit Amid Scandal
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald visited a VA hospital [in Phoenix] Friday for the first time since taking over the embattled agency last month, meeting with veterans and health care providers and vowing to restore trust in the organization. Reports that dozens of people died while waiting to see a doctor and that employees covered up long wait times at the Phoenix VA hospital helped touch off a national firestorm over veteran care (Kashfi, 8/9).

The Hill: VA Chief Vows To Make Up For 'Failed Leadership'
McDonald, speaking to a Disabled American Veterans Conference in Las Vegas, said he would never underestimate the tough challenge in shoring up a department known for falling short in delivering care. ... McDonald, confirmed unanimously by the Senate last month, also noted that the VA hospital in Phoenix had been tagged as the "epicenter" of the department's problems, even though those issues were widespread and systemic. McDonald visited the hospital this week in his first site visit since taking over the department's reins. "That's a bad reputation to have, and it's going to take time and action to change it," he said (Becker, 8/9).

Texas Tribune: Doctors Laud Expansion Of VA Voucher Program
In light of whistle-blower claims that staff members at agency hospitals nationwide fudged records to make it appear that veterans were experiencing shorter waiting times, the system is expanding the voucher program as part of a major overhaul to help address the massive backlog. Doctors and patients in the (Rio Grande) Valley welcomed the additional resources, but they said the voucher program must be improved to maximize its effectiveness. Vouchers are a common form of currency for the 30,000 veterans who seek care in the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, which includes the state's 20 most southern counties. Many physicians said the process was marked by difficulties accessing patients' medical records and collecting past-due payments (Rocha, 8/10).

Los Angeles Times: PTSD Continues To Afflict Vietnam Veterans 40 Years After The War
Four decades after the Vietnam War, 11% of its veterans still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to new research suggesting that for some people it is a condition unlikely to ever go away. The findings, presented Friday at a meeting of the American Psychological Assn., provide a rare look at the long-term course of PTSD in veterans. The research updates a landmark study conducted in the 1980s, when researchers found that 15% of Vietnam veterans had the disorder. Despite the passage of many years and the increasing availability of effective treatments for PTSD, the picture remains much the same (Zarembo, 8/8).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from 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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