The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has come under recent but prolonged fire for the manner in which the VA handles the scheduling of veterans’ medical appointments and how the VA falsely reported the amount of time it took for veterans to receive medical services through the VA health care system.
Fallout from the scandal has resulted in the VA Secretary resigning his post. The outgoing VA Secretary stated as he was departing, “I respect the independent review and recommendations of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding systemic issues with patient scheduling and access … I am directing that the Phoenix VA Health Care System (VAHCS) immediately triage each of the 1,700 Veterans identified by the OIG to bring them timely care … I have directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to complete a nation-wide access review to ensure a full understanding of VA’s policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care.”
The new, Acting VA Secretary acknowledged on June 2, 2014, “Not all Veterans are getting the timely access to the healthcare that they have earned. Systemic problems in scheduling processes have been exacerbated by leadership failures and ethical lapses. I will use all available authority to swiftly and decisively address issues of willful misconduct or mismanagement. VA’s first priority is to get all Veterans off waiting lists and into clinics while we address the underlying issues that have been impeding Veterans’ access to healthcare.”
However, the Acting VA Secretary went on to represent, “as we accelerate our access to care, we will not lose sight of the fact that the quality of VA healthcare remains strong. Ten years of external validations have consistently shown that, on average, Veterans who use VA healthcare rate our hospitals and clinics as high or higher in customer satisfaction than patients give most of the Nation’s private sector hospitals.”
We suggest that a prompt, independent investigation into the alleged results of the VA’s patient satisfaction surveys is in order to validate the VA’s representation of high patient satisfaction, in light of the VA’s health care scheduling scandal.
But the VA’s health care scheduling scandal may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Unpublicized is the VA’s burgeoning burden of providing disability benefits to veterans. In a February 2014 report prepared by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics for the VA, it was reported that while the population of veterans has been declining since 1985, the number of veterans with a service-connected disability (defined as disability as a result of disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service) has been on the rise (a 60% increase since 1990).
Furthermore, as the VA report states, the rate of increase in disability cash payments is outpacing the growth in the number of veterans with a service-connected disability, and the growth in the number of veterans with a service-connected disability is concentrated among those rated 50 percent or higher (service-connected disability ratings are graduated in increments of 10 percent based on the degree of the veteran’s disability, on a scale of 0 to 100 percent) – in recent years, veterans granted disability compensation for the first time have received higher initial ratings than in the past.
If you or a loved one are a U.S. veteran and may have been harmed by medical negligence committed at a VA medical facility, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney (VA malpractice attorney) in your state who has experience in handling claims against the VA so that you may be informed regarding your rights and responsibilities in bringing a medical malpractice claim involving the VA.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with VA medical malpractice lawyers who may assist you with a VA medical malpractice claim (a Federal Tort Claims Act claim).
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