#VAFail – Surgery Canceled Because the VA Missed a Step
Preparing for surgery isn’t a simple process. You take physical and mental steps in the days and hours before even entering the operating room.
The Department of Veterans Affairs facility where you usually receive care decides they can’t conduct this particular surgery, so they say you can visit another hospital.
The facility that conducts your surgery does the paperwork, prepares equipment and schedules staff to perform the procedure. You show up, get prepared for surgery, and have a talk with the anesthesiologist.
Now imagine all those steps have been taken – the hospital and the patient have done their jobs – but the surgery grinds to a halt anyway. Why? Because the VA bureaucracy gets in the way – the VA hadn’t signed final authorizations for an outside facility to do your surgery.
That’s what happened to John Latham, a Navy veteran from Nevada. John was prepared for surgery on his arm following an injury last year.
The VA couldn’t perform this surgery, so their third-party provider, TriWest, took over coordinating the surgery with a community provider.
The operation was scheduled, preparations were made and John was at the hospital in the last stages of waiting to be wheeled into surgery. Then, while waiting for surgery, his phone rang and he received a voicemail.
The voicemail was from TriWest informing John that “the VA did not approve the secondary authorization request that [his] provider sent in.”
And just like that, the surgery was canceled.
John was able to get his approval and surgery shortly after. But why was the process allowed to continue up until the time of the surgery without the VA signing authorizations? One problem is the lack of communication between the VA, TriWest, and the community care provider.
Chuck Ramey from VA Public Affairs said that consolidating community care programs will help with third-party coordination issues like John’s. The VA currently has multiple community care programs, but will combine all those programs into one thanks to provisions in the recently-signed VA MISSION Act. Once implemented, this will help put an end to confusion and miscommunication in community care.
#VAFails like John Latham’s are inconvenient and disheartening for veterans who were promised care when they put on the uniform. Under the VA MISSION Act, the VA is hopefully on its way to providing better community care services.