This weekend marks seven years since the Phoenix VA scandal came to light. In 2014, news broke revealing veterans were being kept on secret appointment wait lists at VA medical facilities in order to manipulate and hide actual wait times.
In the years that followed, accountability and access reforms have improved conditions for veterans using the VA for health care, but there are still obstacles to overcome.
The VA MISSION Act of 2018 gives veterans the choice to use community care if their VA medical center doesn’t meet the highest quality standards. The Veterans Affairs Department is supposed to identify those low-performing facilities and fix them.
But Air Force veteran Darin Selnick, a senior adviser at Concerned Veterans for America, notes in a recent op-ed that the VA is not fully implementing the law’s requirements, leaving too many veterans without access to either community care or quality VA care.
“And, as the 2014 Phoenix VA waitlist scandal revealed, poor quality and delayed care kills veterans,” he writes.
Veterans should not have to live – or die – through a repeat of Phoenix.
To cite just a couple of examples, the VA Medical Centers in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., are in the bottom 25 percent for their overall quality rating.
“Why can’t veterans be offered choices among the top-rated hospitals in their communities?” Selnick asks. “Instead of being stuck at the VA medical centers in Phoenix or Washington, D.C., why can’t they choose between the top-ranked Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, or Sibley Memorial in D.C.?”
Selnick calls on the VA to fully implement the MISSION Act standards of quality to create real community care choices for veterans, while developing remediation plans for substandard VA facilities. “Only then will veterans have full choice to access the high-quality community care they earned,” he writes.
The Phoenix VA scandal should serve as a reminder of what happens when veterans aren’t put first at the VA. Fully implementing the VA MISSION Act is the best way to ensure veterans and their health are the priority.
Read the rest of Darin Selnick’s op-ed in The Hill.