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Tackling Delayed Care for Veterans: Jaime Herrera Beutler Secures Stronger Accountability Measures to Address Understaffing Issues within the Portland-area VA
Over 10% of veterans are still waiting longer than 30 days for care at VA Vancouver Clinic -- triple the national average
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved Jaime Herrera Beutler’s legislative directive to address the lengthy VA hiring process and staff vacancies that have delayed care for Southwest Washington veterans. 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.
Jaime’s legislative directive was included in yesterday’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for 2017, and requires the VA to investigate the steps, and cost of those steps, in its hiring process. This legislative directive continues Jaime's previous work to address long wait times at the Vancouver and Portland VA due to high staff turnover.
“It’s my job to make sure the men and women who have sacrificed to serve and defend our country receive the care they’ve earned,” said Jaime. “We continue to see major holes in the VA system – particularly with hiring and retaining staff that provide care. The VA insists they are correcting these problems, but it’s happening too slowly for Southwest Washington veterans who need quality medical care. It’s important that Congress advances these accountability measures I’ve authored to give the VA more tools to provide better services to our military heroes.”
Additional Herrera Beutler-authored veteran wait time accountability measures included in the bill:
“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.