#VAFail – Dermatology Delays Show Veterans Choice Program Needs Reform
The Veterans Choice Program was established after the Phoenix VA waitlist scandal, where 40 veterans died while waiting on manipulated wait times. However, a recent VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report illustrates the need for more reforms, finding that the program experienced several inefficiencies that put veterans’ health at risk in a North Chicago, Illinois VA.
This program was viewed as a stopgap remedy to the problems facing the Phoenix VA, and other hospitals around the country. Unfortunately, the program was implemented poorly and highlights systemic issues at the VA.
The OIG report reviewed allegations and found three patients’ health care was further complicated by the VA’s tendency to over bureaucratize the Choice Program. One patient underwent a “redundant and unnecessary biopsy” because the Choice Program third-party administrator didn’t send medical records to the Choice provider.
Two other patients experienced delays in receiving care. One patient’s non-VA doctor did not receive a readable copy of a pathology report from the VA fee department staff or the Choice third-party administrator–which resulted in a delay in surgery. Another patient’s consultation was not processed in a timely manner which led to a delay in care. Making matters worse, the report found:
“Patients who were referred for dermatology care through the Choice program, including those with skin cancers, experienced delays.”
“We want to essentially design a system that works for all veterans no matter where they live…So we actually want to design a system that works for the veterans and not based upon administrative or bureaucratic rules.”
Veterans should be able to see a non-VA specialist to receive health care and the VA has made substantial steps towards allowing veterans to access the care they need. However, the current Choice Program needs to be reformed to focus on the clinical needs of the individual veteran, not on bureaucracy. Sticking with the status quo is no longer an option, and Congress needs to act.
A recent poll released by CVA shows 98% of veterans support efforts to reform health care veterans receive in this country. 80 percent of veterans polled favor giving veterans more choices over their health care outside of the traditional VA services. The Choice Program has reflected this desire for more choice when it saw a huge spike in demand this past year. Yet, as this OIG report shows, the program needs an overhaul.
Congress needs to pass permanent Choice reforms that will empower veterans with the ability to use their benefits inside or outside of the VA at their own discretion. Veterans deserve more than to be stuck in a system that bogs them down with heavy bureaucracy at the price of their health.