The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been in the news a lot lately, and not in a good way. A new law revamping the department and the way it delivers health care to our nation’s veterans seeks to put the department on the road to recovery.
The $16.3 billion bill, the Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act of 2014, signed into law last month, is meant to help alleviate the problems that came to light this past spring, including the months-long waits that confronted many veterans who needed to see a doctor.
The bill provides money to the VA to hire thousands of doctors and nurses with the goal of getting veterans quicker access to health care at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics. It also includes money that would allow veterans to obtain health care at non-VA providers if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or can’t get a medical appointment through the VA within 30 days.
The legislation also changes employment rules that would make it easier to fire VA executives found to act negligently or who don’t perform well.
Since the law was passed, the VA has announced an expansion of its plans to increase access to non-VA medical care and plans for a new Medical Appointment Scheduling System.
In a press release, the VA announced primary care has been added to the services through Patient-Centered Community Care contracts, which provides health care to veterans at non-VA facilities, as part of an initiative to move veterans off wait lists and get them medical appointments. The VA said it is exploring how this program can be used to implement the Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act of 2014.
In another press release, the VA announced a Request for Proposal for a new Medical Appointment Scheduling System, which would replace the VA’s antiquated scheduling system with state-of-the-art management-based software.
“When we can put a solid scheduling system in place, this will free up more human resources to focus on direct Veterans’ care,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said.
The VA is also developing mobile applications that will allow veterans to directly request certain primary care and mental health appointments and rolling out clinical video tele-health capabilities next month.
These are important first steps to helping our veterans get the health care they need and deserve. The legal community will be watching to make sure real change takes place and veterans receive medical care in a timely manner going forward.