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Tackling Delayed Care for Veterans: Jaime Herrera Beutler’s Stronger Accountability Measures for VA Pass U.S. House

Over 10% of veterans are still waiting longer than 30 days for care at VA Vancouver Clinic – triple the national average

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Washington, DC, May 19, 2016 | comments
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Jaime Herrera Beutler’s accountability measures to address the lengthy VA hiring process and staff vacancies that have delayed care for Southwest Washington veterans.
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Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Jaime Herrera Beutler’s accountability measures to address the lengthy VA hiring process and staff vacancies that have delayed care for Southwest Washington veterans. These measures were included in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for 2017, which passed through the House with bipartisan support.

While the Vancouver VA clinic has slots for 16 primary care physicians, it currently only has 11 physicians on staff.  This staff shortage contributes to over 10% of veterans being forced to wait 30-plus days for health care appointments, which is three times the national average.

“The VA can’t provide efficient, quality care to Southwest Washington veterans when it is chronically turning over its staff of care providers,” said Jaime. “The VA insists it is concerned about wait times, but until it fixes the problems that are causing high staff turnover and sluggish recruiting of primary care providers, it won’t make the progress our veterans deserve.  I’m hopeful that the accountability measures I successfully inserted into this House-passed funding bill can get the VA to focus on removing the hurdles that delay the care our military heroes receive.”

Herrera Beutler-authored veteran wait time accountability measures included in the bill:

Wait times due to staff turnover – Jaime’s legislative directive requires the VA to investigate the steps, and cost of those steps, in its hiring process and continues Jaime’s previous work to address long wait times at the Vancouver and Portland VA due to high staff turnover.

“Choice Act” resource scrutiny– One of Jaime’s accountability measures will look at the amount of funding from The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act – a bill Jaime supported that was signed into law in 2014 – was allocated to each VA region to hire additional staff, the number of staff actually hired, and the number of employees who left VA in the same period, and the net gain/loss of healthcare providers.

Medical staff retention – Another one of Jaime’s accountability measures builds on her legislative provision signed into law last year that required the VA to collect data on the number of medical staff who have left the VA system including their main reasons for leaving, and a detailed plan of how the VA can address these issues. In response to last year’s provision, the VA has uncovered a multitude of reasons behind providers’ decision to leave the VA.  However, the VA only provided data at the national level.  To better address this range of issues, Jaime’s directive requires the VA to break down the data by region, facility and primary verses specialty care.  

VA care capacity for severely disabled veterans – It is unclear if VA has maintained capacity to care for severely disabled veterans.  Jaime included an accountability measure requiring the VA to report on its capacity to provide for the health care needs of severely disabled veterans, including veterans with spinal cord dysfunction, blindness, amputations, and mental illness. 

Vouchers for homeless veterans program –This accountability measure would have the VA report the specific numbers of vouchers it issues to house and provide services for both male and female homeless veterans in rural and urban areas.

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Tags: Veterans