Obama Signs VA Overhaul Legislation, New Secretary Confirmed
President Obama signed legislation giving a $16.3 billion boost to the Veterans Affairs Department’s ability to respond to beneficiaries seeking healthcare services, on August 7. The bill was passed in response to whistleblower allegations that VA officials deliberately manipulated appointment and scheduling records to give the appearance of shorter waiting times for veterans seeking medical care. As a result of long wait times for appointments, veterans died while awaiting care.
The new legislation will enable veterans to seek healthcare services from non-VA providers, but which can later be reimbursed by the VA; give VA hospitals and clinics more money to hire physicians and nurses; and help the VA lease 27 new clinics across the country.
According to a USA Today, analysis of internal VA documents found that “at least one appointment scheduler at 109 VA medical centers who said wait times for veterans had been falsified, according to a USA Today analysis of internal VA survey data… To keep evidence of delayed care out of the VA’s official electronic tracking system, secret lists were maintained at 110 facilities, the analysis shows.”
The bill also contains a provision giving organizations broader authority to “fire senior executives judged to be negligent or underperforming,” Modern Healthcare reported.
On July 30, the Senate confirmed the appointment of the new VA Secretary, Robert McDonald, to replace Eric Shinseki who resigned his post in May when details of the scandal emerged. McDonald is the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble and a graduate of West Point Military Academy.