VA pitches ‘fundamental shift’ in veterans’ health care to Congress

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By Emily Kopp

The Veterans Affairs Department will meet veterans’ health care needs through closer coordination with outside hospitals, clinics and doctors, the department says in a plan its sending to Congress on Sunday.

It is an admission that VA will never be able to meet all of veterans’ health care demands on its own. Rather, the department will focus on specialized care related to veterans’ service that other facilities cannot replicate. It may stop providing services commonly found in the health care industry.

“This is a fundamental shift in the way we think health care will be delivered to veterans for the next 20 years,” said Dr. David Shulkin, under secretary of health at the VA. He offered a preview of the plan in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio.

Congress created the Veterans Choice Program after learning last year that VA clinics were falsifying appointment logs to disguise delays in patient care. The Choice Program lets veterans seek help outside the VA when certain conditions are met.  Since the law’s creation, VA has fulfilled an additional 7 million appointments, with 4.5 million of those through external providers. Nonetheless, veterans in some regions continue to wait too long for treatment. As of Oct. 15, nearly 200,000 patients had been told they would have to wait at least two months longer for appointments than they preferred.

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