In the recent weeks, the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) has been under considerable scrutiny for delays in treatment at many VA Medical Centers. Indeed, Congress has already had hearings on the issue and many have called for Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation. More information on Congress’s involvement can be found at Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Countless veterans have asked me for my opinion on the subject and I have been hesitant to comment on this extremely complex issue. Accountability issues (i.e. allegations of falsified records) aside, there is one indelible variable that must be accounted for if there is to be a solution: at many locations around the United States the number of veterans seeking medical treatment before the VHA exceed the capacity of the local VA treatment facilities to offer such treatment in a competent and efficient manner.
While I agree that long-term solutions need to consider issues such as reallocation of assets/personnel to “at-need” locations, additional funding from Congress, increased accountability for healthcare administrators, and, frankly, review of VHA eligibility criteria; long-term solutions will not provide immediate solutions for veterans waiting for medical treatment/testing. The only constructive solution I see to remedy the immediate issues of healthcare delay is additional funding and support for Non-VA Medical Care (formerly called “Fee Basis”). “Fee Basis” is medical treatment provided at local non-VA medical facilities, but payment is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While this clearly will incur additional costs to the VA, thankfully, this also appears to be a short-term solution being considered as we speak, as evidenced in the following Fox News Article.