Secretary Shulkin on the ‘State of VA’: Making VA into an organization Veterans deserve from May 2017 below
“As a physician I tend to look at things in terms of the way I was trained – assess, diagnose, and then aggressively treat the patient,” he said before outlining the current state of VA, clearly identifying risks the department faces in caring for Veterans. Key issues needing attention:
Access to care
VA now has same-day services for primary care and mental health at all 168 medical centers with 22 percent of patients seen on the same day. Yet Veterans are waiting more than 60 days for new appointments at about 30 locations nationwide. Sixteen percent of primary care clinics are over 100% capacity – meaning Veterans are not being seen soon enough. “We need more clinical and support staff as well as more space in order to solve this problem,” Shulkin said
Community Care, especially VA’s Choice Program, has increased access to care for millions of Veterans with 500,000 community providers in the Community Care Network. However, providers are still frustrated by delayed payments to the point that some of them are leaving the network. VA is encouraging the private sector to use electronic submissions to allow faster adjudication and payment.
VA is currently required to administer eight separate Community Care programs, which is inefficient and causes confusion for Veterans, providers and VA employees alike. Shulkin said, VA has to “reject a minimum of 1 out of 5 community care claims. This is much higher than the private sector and we need Congress to help us fix this. We continue to work with our partners – including the White House, Congress, VSOs, and community providers – to develop and pass legislation that will ensure VA Community Care is easy to understand, simple to administer, and meets the needs of Veterans and their families. We have to pass legislation this year or these issues will persist.”
Quality of care
VA now shares star ratings and comparisons between VA medical centers and local community hospitals to provide Veterans with information to make informed decisions about their care. Upon setting of the website, VA has identified 14 medical centers with 1-star ratings, meaning they are below the community standard of care. VA is actively deploying teams and implementing performance plans at each of these centers to improve care.
“Veterans shouldn’t have to accept low quality care. They deserve our very best,” Shulkin said. “When they aren’t getting our best, they should be able to access the best their community has to offer. That is exactly what we are working to achieve with our new Choice plan. “
Disability claims and appeals
VA currently has more than 90,000 disability claims that are taking more than 125 days to process. The secretary wants to cut that time in half over the next two years.
“The time to get an appeal decision is far too long- taking almost three years for a veteran to get a decision,” Shulkin said. “It takes Congress to fix this, and I am grateful that the House passed legislation last week. We need our friends in the Senate to act as soon as possible.”
Read the full story here: Secretary Shulkin on the ‘State of VA’: Making VA into an organization Veterans deserve – May 2017