It finally happened…and it was our guy walking point for millions of veterans who receive services from VA.  Earlier this week, Senator Cory Gardner introduced legislation to decouple the delivery of VA medical services from the agency’s mismanaged network of expensive hospitals.

While President Lincoln’s mandate to “care for him who shall have borne the battle…” will still be honored, the look and feel of our VA health system may evolve into something drastically different, necessitated by Obama-era mismanagement that resulted in intractable problems in both the quality of service and culture of the organization.
Years after the Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked by scandal, it is still taking weeks to see doctors, and months to hire licensed service providers.  Most shockingly – an Inspector General report revealed unofficial wait lists for PTSD treatment continued to be used in Colorado as late as 2016.
The IG’s findings at several Colorado VA facilities reads like horror story of what can go wrong when medical care is administered by unaccountable bureaucrats: failure to provide care within the 30-day VA standard in 64% of cases, improperly closing case files for dozens of patients without documenting scheduling efforts, and lying about wait times for 91% of cases that required treatment.  Wait times for initial visits were underreported by 50 days, and more than 200 veterans were improperly denied the Veterans Choice Program.
To combat this fatal flaw, Gardner introduced a bill to expand the popular CHOICE Act, which allows veterans to seek private care for wait times greater than 30 days or locations more than 40 miles from the veteran’s home.  The Veterans Improved Access and Care Act strips away the 30 day wait time and geographic requirement for private service, and allows veterans to private medical care if they choose, regardless of fake wait times at the VA or location.
The act also streamlines requirements for onboarding new medical professionals.  In the private sector, it takes several weeks to onboard a new doctor or nurse.  At VA, the process takes four-to-eight months.  Why would any medical professional wait around most of an entire year to work at VA, when lots of other hospitals will wave them in in just a fraction of the time?  This is yet another unacceptable roadblock to excellent service at VA.  It has been this way for years – because the bureaucracy simply does not care.
If Gardner’s bill is passed, it could have a transformative effect on this once-great agency.  It is certainly causing decision makers to consider other options – do we really have a need for this massive network of VA hospitals?  Can veterans be better served by private health care providers?  How much money could be saved by transferring the delivery of health care services out of the VA? Will veterans be happy with the new level of service?
Thanks to Senator Gardner, we may be getting some of these important questions answered sooner rather than later.