After Report Conducted at Jaime Herrera Beutler’s Urging, VA Office of Inspector General Determines Resources Intended to Serve Veterans in Rural Areas are Lacking Oversight and Underutilized
Veteran Health Administration Agrees to Recommendations for Improving Health Care Access
As the result of a legislative provision inserted by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report on May 14, 2014 outlining the Veteran Health Administration’s (VHA) insufficient operation policies and gaps in data collection regarding mobile medical units (MMU).
As the result of a legislative provision inserted by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report on May 14, 2014 outlining the Veteran Health Administration’s (VHA) insufficient operation policies and gaps in data collection regarding mobile medical units (MMU). The report found that VHA did not know how many MMUs they possessed, MMU patient workload, the cost of operating them and that some were being deployed to rural communities as little as 5 days per month.
MMUs were a significant federal investment with the purpose of increasing access to primary care and mental health services for veterans in rural locations where it is not feasible to build a VA clinic or medical facility. In 2011, Jaime heard from a local VA provider who had not been allowed to take the MMU to a coastal Washington community to administer flu shots to veterans. After investigating the matter, Jaime discovered the MMU had been parked at the American Lake Facility for nearly half of the five years they owned it. At that point Jaime had a provision inserted in a 2014 federal spending bill pressing for a report from the VA OIG on use of Mobile Medical Units.
The Office of Inspector General report recommended a comprehensive assessment on the composition of the MMU fleet, services provided, data collection standards, and assigning responsibility for developing mobile medical unit polices. Jaime supports the recommendations of the OIG and is awaiting analysis to determine the effect MMUs have on rural veterans’ access to health care. The Under Secretary for Health has agreed to the recommendations, submitted a corrective action plan, and has begun work on complying with the first recommendation.
“With approximately 25K plus veterans living in rural areas of Southwest Washington it is important that we have the mobile medical units available on a regular basis to these areas. Some of these veterans are not able to drive the distance or get a ride to their appointments, because unfortunately it is a long way to get even the most basic primary care,” said Vernon Barlow of Onalaska, Former District Commander- American Legion 10. “It’s hard to believe we have a mobile medical unit right here in Western Washington that is only used 5 days per month on average. I appreciate Congresswoman Herrera Beutler continuing to push for rural veterans to have improved access to healthcare.”
“There are many veterans in my district and throughout the state living in rural areas who could benefit greatly from a MMU visit to their community. This report contains alarming information about the poor management of mobile medical units – a potentially promising resource for providing quality medical care to our rural veterans,” said Jaime. “Our federal government made a promise to help take care of the men and women who served in our military. We owe it to our veterans and taxpayers who are paying for this resource to use it in the most efficient and effective way possible. I am eager to see the findings of the comprehensive assessment that is due out later this year.”