(NationalSentinel) Military: If you listen to veterans who are under the care of the Veterans Administration healthcare system, you’re liable to hear a mixed bag of compliments and utter contempt.
Some praise the VA as a life-saving institution, but others say it is nothing but a bureaucratic hell with too few resources to ever fulfill its healthcare mandate to the troops.
And, of course, there are the myriad of scandals that have struck the VA for decades, the most recent of those being waiting lists that stretched into months at some facilities in which vets died while waiting for care.
Those days may finally be over.
In keeping campaign pledges to “fix” the “broken” VA system, President Donald J. Trump signed legislation on Monday sent to him by the GOP-controlled Congress that gives vets the choice of seeking care for military-related conditions in the private sector.
As reported by the Washington Examiner:
President Trump signed legislation Wednesday that will dramatically expand a program at the Department of Veterans Affairs that lets patients seek care from private doctors if they want to bypass the troubled VA system.
The Veterans Choice Improvement Act removes barriers that Congress placed around the original “choice” initiative and eliminates an expiration date that would have shuttered the program in August.
Lawmakers created the choice program in 2014 after a massive scandal involving wait time cover-ups at more than 100 VA facilities around the country. It was initially structured as a two-year pilot program that limited when and where veterans could choose to see private doctors. Patients could only use the choice program if they lived more than 40 miles from the nearest VA hospital or if they could not get an appointment from their local VA facility within 30 days.
The choice program has proven controversial since its inception three years ago. Critics have questioned whether increasing veterans’ reliance on private doctors might move the VA toward privatization, while proponents of such efforts have accused the VA of resisting steps to implement the program in order to protect the status quo.
There will always be ‘supporters’ and ‘critics’ of any measure, but in reality, the VA has historically been underfunded by successive congresses and administrations, leaving the VA’s managers hamstrung and constantly searching for ways to stretch finite resources. When you put too much on an institution and give it too few resources with which to carry out its core functions, the end result is mission failure and scandal.
If Congress continues to fund the VA at current levels, this law may just be the relief valve the system needs in order to function better: By shifting a portion of its patient load to the private sector, the VA will be left with fewer vets to treat and thus, the available resources can be stretched further than ever before.
No solutions are perfect, but this one could get close.