Veterans group proposes radical changes to VA

Veterans Affairs
(WISH Photo/ Doug Moon)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A veterans advocacy group is proposing radical changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs, including a plan that would dismantle the agency in the hopes of injecting both improved care and increased choices for veterans.

The plan, unveiled publicly Thursday at a summit in Washington D.C., calls for splitting the Veterans Health Administration into two agencies: one that would oversee health insurance coverage and billing, and other that would deal with health care for veterans. The latter of the two would become a “government-sponsored non-profit.”

The proposed changes, unveiled by the conservative group Concerned Veterans for America, are part of a massive plan to overhaul a heavily criticized VA and inject more choices for veterans seeking health care. The current model, as Former Tennessee Senator Bill Frist put it, “needs to listen very carefully to what veterans want, to what they need. Health care has not done a good job with that.”

He added that under the proposed reforms, veterans would have more access to private health care options already available to many Americans.

The report, that spells out a detailed plan for creating a new Veterans Health Administration, states that the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which Congress passed last year, doesn’t go far enough.

“(It) limits the number of veterans who qualify for private health choices. Geographic restrictions are made by VA facilities, not where veterans receive care, and wait-time restrictions are based on what the VA deems “medically necessary” not when the veteran requests an appointment.”

Recent VA data shows more than 300 patients at the VA Roudebush Hospital in Indianapolis have waited three months for an appointment.

Republican Congresswoman, Jackie Walorski, of Indiana’s second Congressional District, said the Veterans choice act isn’t available to some rural Indiana veterans.

“I worked on the choice bill. I worked on the reform bill that brought choice into being. And from my perspective, the VA cannot fix itself. The VA cannot fix itself internally,” she said.

The report also spelled a ten-point summary list of creating more “veteran first” health care reforms. A large portion of the discussion Thursday focused on increasing choices for veterans. A survey including in the report found 89 percent of more than 1,000 veterans surveyed wanted more choices when it came to health care providers and that 77 percent of those were willing to pay out-of-pocket to receive it.

Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain spoke in favor of the CVA during the summit, but was interrupted by a heckler who chided McCain about his efforts to help veterans in Phoenix, which became a focal point of the VA scandal last year, where allegations were made that log books about patient wait times were doctored and that many veterans died while waiting to receive care.

McCain interrupted the man, saying he would compare his record with veterans to anyone else.

“I tell you what, you are obviously not from Arizona. Because you wouldn’t be acting in such an idiotic way if you were. And I’ll introduce you to all our veteran leadership and they’ll tell you what I’ve done for them. Ok?” he said.

“You got anything else to say… you jerk,” McCain said before the moderator cut him off.

The plan unveiled by the CVA is just a brain child at this point, but the group said it plans to make a big push on Capitol Hill in April.

I-Team 8 reached out to the Public Affairs office of the VA seeking a comment. We had not heard back by news time.

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