Veterans Affairs Pushing Forward With Much Needed Improvements

Days from now, the president will submit his FY 2019 budget proposal to Congress -while the VA and the rest of the federal government continues to operate on a series of emergency funding measures until Congress can appropriate the full 2018 budget that agencies need to keep operating through September.

While the VA is struggling to get funding for this year, it has been busy making health care system changes in hopes funding will keep up with the bold new reform efforts VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has laid out for the department since taking charge last year.

Just in the first month of 2018, the VA has taken some noteworthy actions, including:

  • improving timeliness of payments for services rendered by community providers;
  • refining and strengthening support to veterans and family caregivers;
  • establishing a White House executive order requiring the VA, DoD, and the Department of Homeland Security to develop a joint action plan that will expand mental health programs and other resources for transitioning servicemembers;
  • revising regulations to improve claims processing of payments or reimbursements for emergency care veterans receive for non-service-connected conditions outside of VA medical facilities;
  • launching a public web page on opioid prescribing rates across the VA's health care system - the first health system to do so in the U.S.;
  • delivering same-day services to veterans with urgent primary and mental health needs at 100 percent of its medical facilities;
  • joining the Department of Health and Human Services to share data, tools, and best practices to reduce and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse in the country's two largest health care payment systems;
  • collaborating with the National Center for PTSD and nonprofit PINK Concussions to advance traumatic brain injury and PTSD brain research through active recruitment of female veterans, active duty servicemembers, and civilians;
  • partnering with DoD to launch a new innovative web-based tool to help veterans get their discharges reviewed if they believe their discharge to be unjust or erroneous or warrants an upgrade; and
  • focusing efforts to aggressively make rapid improvements at 15 low-performing, one-star-ranked medical facilities to bring facilities up to VA hospital system performance standards.

Shulkin and the administration have “engaged in the largest transformation and modernization effort in decades,” he said following last week's State of the Union address.

“As outlined in tonight's address, VA will have another groundbreaking year expanding and improving our services for veterans, particularly when it comes to giving them more choices over their health care decisions and improving yet again on the timeliness of our decisions on veterans benefits,” Shulkin said.

While MOAA is optimistic the VA will continue to make great strides toward transformation, the department will need a full and continuous budget to sustain the momentum and hard work put forth to date.

One sure thing is the secretary is doing all he can to transform the department as quickly as possible. MOAA will do all we can to help him in this effort, including making sure the VA has the necessary funding it needs this year and in future years.



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