Two years ago, a CNN investigation exposed VHA employees’ data manipulation to cover up outrageously long wait times for doctor´s appointments. In the light of the scandal, the White House and Congress launched an investigation and a temporary solution in the shape of the Choice Program, which funded expanded community care to diminish scheduling delays.
The government also established the Commission on Care to investigate the VHA in more detail and to identify chronic failures and problems in its organizational culture.
Scathing Commission on Care VHA Report
The Commission has just released its Final Report, and the outcome is, as many of us had expected, shocking. While the Choice Program has not solved the wait times drama, the report has shed light on many critical problems which require urgent attention, and it may be the most important consequence of the past media scandal. In relation to the Choice Program, the report informs that it only "aggravated wait times and frustrated veterans."
Naturally, learning about the systemic failures presented in the 300-page report will help no one, unless action is taken urgently and efficiently. If the administration fails to do it, we will be left with a ghastly picture of everything our government is not doing for its valued service men and women; a portrait of purgatory, with no glimpse or hope of resolution.
Chaotic VHA Mismanagement, System Failures & Troubled Culture Tip of Iceberg
Among the issues identified by the Commission’s team of health care professionals and veteran organization leaders, “chronic management and system failures, along with a troubled organizational culture” are some of the most critical. The report also noted that the VHA “has not effectively empowered its staff to identify problems and make changes to improve the overall quality of care.”
The document has not only brought to light the VHA’s inability to adapt and learn from its mistakes, but also the difficulties it faces when it comes to integrating behavioral health and primary care, a critical aspect for “many who have suffered from the effects of battle and for whom VHA is a safety net,” as stated in the report.
To ensure that there is no doubt about the VHA’s critical situation, the report’s authors did not shy before calling its organizational structure “chaotic” and pointing to “staffing shortages and vacancies at every level of the organization and across numerous critical positions.”
OTH Discharges Resulting from Service Caused Disabilities Should Not Negate HealthCare
Another interesting point the Commission for Care saw fit to focus on is the case of individuals who have “been dismissed from military services with an other-than honorable (OTH) discharge because of actions that resulted from health conditions (such as traumatic brain injury [TBI], posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], or substance use) caused by, or exacerbated by, their service.” Since such individuals do not fall into the category of “veterans,” they are therefore ineligible for care.
The result is that a large number of former service men and women, who suffer from service-incurred health problems, are not receiving care.
In this respect, the Commission has recommended that the Veterans Administration “revise its regulations to provide tentative eligibility to receive health care to former service members with an OTH discharge who are likely to be deemed eligible because of their substantial favorable service or extenuating circumstances that mitigate a finding of disqualifying conduct.”
Billions Spent to Little Effect – Substantive Rather than Cosmetic Changes Critical
The report contains many recommendations similar to this one. To sum up its contents, one could say that it proposes a dramatic restructuring of the organization and the services it provides to veterans. As we recover from the shock of finding out that the billions of dollars pumped into the VA following the wait times scandal has done little to improve things, we are faced with a picture of an organization which seems to be doing very little, very poorly.
One can only hope that the investigation will lead to substantial and more permanent changes, rather than a few cosmetic changes solely aimed at keeping the press otherwise occupied.
If you believe you have been affected by the Veterans Administration’s inability to provide appropriate services, our experienced attorneys can assist you with both claim’s denial appeals and VA medical malpractice claims.
Gang & Associates, a nationwide practice with over 15 years’ experience, is exclusively dedicated to helping veterans obtain the benefits and care to which they are entitled. We pride ourselves in successfully advocating veterans` causes and claims to ensure they achieve the health benefits and well-being they deserve.