As the agency seeks to increase its ability to provide services, Secretary Eric Shinseki says patients will get more access to private clinics and hospitals in areas where the department's services are limited. Also, the Wall Street Journal looks at the growth of the VA budget.
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
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).
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).
USA Today: Long Appeals Leave Older Vets Without Benefits For Years
Cases involving the appeal of veterans benefits rulings take almost 19 months to resolve, Department of Veterans Affairs records show, and advocates say the crush of new claims is hurting older veterans. At least 350,000 veterans of wars before those in Iraq and Afghanistan have outstanding appeals of benefits decisions, according to VA records (Kennedy, 5/26).
The Wall Street Journal: VA's Budget, And Rolls, Have Boomed
The Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency caught in a political firestorm over its medical care for veterans, has seen its funding grow faster than any other government department in recent years. Since 2000, annual spending has tripled to $63 billion to meet a surge in health-care and other costs. That is on top of the more than $85 billion the VA is set to receive this year for automatic payments such as disability benefits and pensions, a tally that has more than tripled since 2000 (Paletta, 5/23).
The Wall Street Journal: VA Goal To Slash Wait Times Was 'Unrealistic,' Aide Said
A goal to cut wait times for appointments by more than half at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals was "unrealistic" and may have been a mistake, a top VA official said in a closed-door meeting with two veterans' groups days before the official was forced to step down. Robert Petzel, the undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs until a week ago, directed in 2011 that goals for many wait times in the VA system be cut to 14 days from 30. That possibly set off efforts by employees to game the appointment system, a Government Accountability Office official said on Friday (Kesling and Nissenbaum, 5/23).
The Arizona Republic: Delayed Care, Fraud Point To Ailing VA Health System
A medical network with roughly 9 million patients, 950 facilities and 85 million annual appointments is bound to have glitches, but critics say the VA Health Care System's far-flung rash of problems reflects an ailing agency. From Phoenix to Albuquerque to Walla Walla, whistle-blower allegations of delayed care and falsified records continue to spread, accompanied by heartbreaking tales from veterans and their families (Wagner, 5/25).
Meanwhile, NPR reports on a new treatment that the VA is hoping can help some veterans suffering from mental health problems-
NPR: Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $26 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain. The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan (Hamilton, 5/27).