As an article in Militarytimes.com reported last month, "House and Senate lawmakers are currently crafting separate but similar measures which would ease access for veterans to receive health care from doctors in their communities at the federal government's expense."
But TREA: The Enlisted Association does not believe the private sector is capable of, or should have, an ever-increasing role in caring for veterans. That does not mean we don't support allowing veterans access to private medical care if they need but can't get quick access to medical care.
But we oppose what some in the Administration and Congress apparently want to do: provide access to more private-sector care while diminishing VA-provided care. By providing more access to private care, Congress is now eroding or erasing existing VA services by spending VA funds outside of the VA instead of improving VA's own internal programs.
What's more, a recent study by a reknowned think-tank, the Rand Corporation, shows that the private-sector does not provide the specific kind of care that veterans need, and that they get, in the VA.
Although it only involved a study of medical care in New York state (which has a very dense population of healthcare providers, compared to some other states), the Rand study came to these conclusions:
"The authors determined that while timeliness was not a problem, the number of prepared providers dropped precipitously when factoring in such qualities as familiarity with military culture and screenings for military affiliation or for conditions common among veterans."
It contained these key findings:
Access to Timely Care
• Researchers found that almost all of the New York providers reported accepting new patients and most (61 percent) reported that new patients would be able to get a visit within two weeks, with almost half (45 percent) indicating that most patients could get a same-day appointment.
Access to Culturally Competent Care
• Only 20 percent of New York-licensed health care professionals reported routinely screening their patients for a military or veteran affiliation, with significant differences across provider types and by region. As a result, many providers are missing an opportunity to begin a conversation about how having a military history and background might have contributed to their veteran patients' current medical condition. Providers are also missing an opportunity to understand how military culture could shape veterans' preferences and attitudes about treatment.
Access to Quality Care
• To understand whether veterans would be assessed to detect service-connected conditions in non-VA settings, the survey examined how often community-based providers screen for specific health concerns that are common among veterans (e.g., sleep-related problems, pain-related concerns, physical impairments). Despite a relatively low threshold of screening for at least half of these common conditions, only 43 percent of providers routinely conducted such screenings.
Overall Provider Readiness
• The survey determined that while 92 percent of New York health care providers were accepting new patients, only 2.3 percent met all criteria for effectively serving the veteran population.
(We've added the bold copy to high-light the important results of their findings.)
So while TREA: The Enlisted Association supports access to private care for veterans who can't get into a VA facility in a reasonable amount of time, we oppose taking funds that should be spent providing care in the VA and improving VA programs and instead using them for what appears to be a push to privatize VA medical care.