VA begins discipline process for workers involved in health system waiting scandal

The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to recommend action against six employees at veterans' medical facilities in Colorado and Wyoming. Meanwhile, news outlets report on questions about whether offering veterans the option of private care will address some of the VA health system's problems.

The Associated Press: VA Chief: Firings Of Workers A Deliberate Process
The Veterans Affairs Department is in the process of holding bad employees accountable amid a scandal about long wait times for patients and other problems, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Thursday, but he declined to say how many people were being fired and who they were. McDonald visited with veterans and employees at the Memphis VA hospital on Thursday, a day after addressing the American Veterans national convention (Sainz, 8/14).

NBC News: VA's Opaque Discipline Process Clouds Outcomes In Wait-Time Scandal
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has recommended disciplinary actions against six employees at VA medical facilities in Colorado and Wyoming for manipulating patient wait times, but the punishments that are being meted out –- and what the employees did to receive them –- remain unclear. Even the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee says he would like to know more so that he can determine if the penalties fit their actions. So far, though, he hasn't gotten any answers (Gusovsky, 8/14).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Some Worry Veteran's Private Care Option Is No Fix
Veterans seeking appointments at the VA hospital in University City often face longer waits -- two weeks longer for a new-patient primary-care slot and more for specialists -- than if they sought private treatment, a comparison of wait times shows. Data from the city's VA show thousands have been waiting more than 30 days to be seen. But opening the door to private care -- as the embattled VA is in the process of doing for hundreds of thousands of veterans -- may not fix the problem, experts say. Veterans could be entering an overwhelmed system with its own delays and little room left to give. It could also, they say, cause longer delays for those with poor health insurance who already struggle to get care (Nadolny, 8/15).

Modern Healthcare: VA Expands New Care Program, But Providers May Balk At The Low Rates It Pays
The Veterans Affairs Department has decided to expand, to include primary-care services, a relatively new program that allows vets to seek certain types of care from non-VA providers. The move likely will enhance the possibility of quicker access to care for veterans, but for how many is unclear. That's because some providers may decline to join the program because of what they see as financially unviable reimbursement rates (Dickson, 8/14).

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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