Veterans group calls out VA for putting bureaucratic costs above veterans’ needs
ARLINGTON, Va.—In recent testimony to Congress, VA Secretary Denis McDonough made a concerning statement that he “had a hunch” the VA should change access standards, a consideration to limit veterans’ access to outside doctors to curb rising costs.
Under the VA MISSION Act access standards, veterans across the nation have the option to seek timely and quality health care in their communities when their VA is unable to provide that care. Demand for care outside the VA has risen since the VA MISSION Act became law. During the Senate hearing on the VA budget, it was noted that the “VA’s community care program now accounts for 33% of the VA’s total health care demand, up from roughly 26% last year.”
“Rolling back access standards would be tragic for veterans,” said John Byrnes, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Director of Education. “The current access standards were set in place so no veteran would have to drive too far or wait too long for care. Now the VA wants to take a huge step backward by undermining the progress made with the MISSION Act.
“Shorter wait times should be the goal, but Secretary McDonough is suggesting veterans should wait even longer. And we know delayed care kills veterans. This administration’s focus must be on improving VA operations by seeing more veterans at VA facilities and ensuring that veterans get quick referrals and appointments through community care. That is the only way all veterans will be able to receive the care they need.”
“Unfortunately, the VA seems to only be looking out for the VA rather than the veterans it serves. Congress now has an opportunity to prevent such a tragic regression in veterans’ health care in Senator Moran’s GHAPS Act, which would make the current access standards statutory law. They should pass this bill immediately. Veterans can’t wait any longer.”
Under the VA MISSION Act, the VA established access standards for community care through the regulatory process. However, recent reports show that the Biden Administration is considering rolling back those access standards, limiting community care options and access for veterans due to concerns of increased demand for care outside the VA and the costs associated.
The Guaranteeing Healthcare Access to Personnel Who Served Act (GHAPS Act) introduced by Senator Jerry Moran and Congressman Mike Bost would clarify access standards, pilot self-scheduling for community care, examine rural and telehealth delivery, and require the VA to publish wait times. To read CVA’s letter of support, click here.