Veterans deserve more choice in their health care, but the Department of Veterans Affairs stands firm in denying them the right to choose what’s best for them.
Recently, The Hill published a compelling op-ed by Darin Selnick, a senior advisor for Concerned Veterans for America and an Air Force veteran, in which he argues that the VA is failing to provide veterans with the choice and flexibility they desperately need in their health care.
According to the VA’s FY 2024 budget submission, overall satisfaction with Community Care was at 83 percent in 2022. Conversely, the overall rating for VA hospitals was only 69 percent.
The percentage of those surveyed who trust the VA is dropping and is well below the VA’s targets. At the same time, VA enrollment is declining, with a projected drop of more than 100,000 veterans from 2021 to 2025.
The VA has a clear message from veterans about what they want in care: flexibility and choice. But leadership has instead chosen to limit access to community care despite long wait and drive times and to weaponize the budget against the Community Care Program.
As Selnick highlights, this isn’t just about numbers or dollars; it’s about veterans’ lives. Tragic consequences arise when the VA delays care, as demonstrated by a who recently died after the VA delayed a surgery referral for 205 days.
Selnick discusses two primary solutions for these problems at the VA.
Congress should pass legislation, such as the Veterans True Choice Act, that puts veterans in charge of their care. Legislation should empower veterans with greater access to timely, quality care and close loopholes that have allowed the VA to skirt the VA MISSION Act.
Beyond legislation, Congress should hold VA leadership accountable for their blatant disregard of veterans’ wellbeing and the law. Congress has the power to punish VA leadership until the VA MISSION Act is followed as intended. It should do so by cutting general administration budgets, freezing management bonuses, and launching further investigations into how VA trains its staff and manages community care.
The VA has a solemn responsibility to care for veterans. Accountability for leadership and full health care choice for veterans are the only way the VA will be able to make good on that promise in the future. Since VA won’t take its duty seriously, Congress must step in.
Read the rest of Selnick’s piece in The Hill.