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VA leader calls community care an ‘easy button,’ urges staff not to use it 

By Concerned Veterans for America

Community care is a vital part of the veterans health care system. It mandates an avenue for veterans to get the care in the community they need when they need it, rather than VA-provided care being their only option.  

But the VA is concerned with its self-preservation and would prefer community care, which Congress directed the VA to allow veterans to use when wait and drive times are too long, only be used as a last resort. 

An internal video from VA leadership, just released by a whistleblower, reveals just how deep the VA’s dismissal of veterans’ best interests goes. 


VA doesn’t want to make care easy 

Empower Oversight Whistleblower and Research recently released an internal video from a meeting at the VA in which Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal shared his plans to ensure VA disregards veterans’ rights and improperly controls access to care. “We should be relying on ourselves first and foremost before anybody else,” he said of VA providing care to veterans before allowing them to use community care. He continued that the VA needed to “press the easy button less.” He basically told his senior staff to stop sending veterans to community care, or best case, he’s directing his senior staff to make it hard for veterans to access care in the community. 


The “easy button” of community care is exactly what Congress directed and is a lifeline to veterans. For those waiting weeks or months for care at the VA, driving hours to their closest facilities, or fearing the low quality of care they get at VA, community care is a great option. They still have benefits, but those benefits now cover care from community providers.  

But the VA would rather continue to hit the “difficult button”, putting up walls to care, creating confusing scheduling practices, manipulating wait times, and misleading veterans about their options. 

An “easy button” to get care when and where you need it sounds pretty good compared to that.  


The VA believes it knows better than veteran patients 

Elnahal said one more thing in the released video that really stood out – “I know that VA is the best option for veterans.”   

That was meant as an encouragement to VA staff, but it’s a telling statement about how the VA sees itself. The VA is the main character, and the bureaucracy reigns. The VA is the arbiter of what good and bad care looks like. The VA is the gatekeeper that decides what is best for veterans. 

Rather than putting veterans at the center of care, the VA is most concerned about putting itself at the center. 

That’s not the model the VA should be working under. 


VA care should make veterans the priority 

Veterans’ health care should be veteran-centric. Veterans know what is right for them, and they should have the first and last say in where the care they were promised comes from.  

The VA should be a strong option for veterans to receive the care they need, not the only option. 


Support veterans having more options in their health care.