Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans’ issues were among the few things Congress agreed upon – before taking their August recess. That included senators confirming three new judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to reduce the massive backlog of disputed veterans’ claims.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says lawmakers have authorized seven new medical facilities for veterans in Florida.

This week the Department of Veterans Affairs expanded emergency mental health care to vets with other-than-honorable discharges. It's part of an effort to curb the recent increase in veteran suicide.


Congressional Democrats on Thursday sharply criticized President Donald Trump's proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying it would harm veterans by rapidly expanding private care while neglecting core VA hospitals and programs.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And this is the Call-In. Today we're talking about veterans' health care. In recent years, the VA has developed a reputation for red tape, long wait times and lapses in care. So we asked you to share your stories about getting the care you need from the VA.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says the Department of Veterans Affairs "is on a path toward recovery."

"We have a clear mandate to do better, [and] to make sure that we're honoring our mission to serve our veterans," Shulkin told NPR's Morning Edition.

As promised, President Trump has moved to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It's a concern for those who might be left without health insurance — and especially for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may have to pick up some of the slack.

Carrie Farmer, a health policy researcher at the Rand Corp., says 3 million vets who are enrolled in the VA usually get their health care elsewhere — from their employer, or maybe from Obamacare exchanges. If those options go away, she has no idea just how many of those 3 million veterans will move over to the VA.

A new, more in-depth analysis of veteran records from all states from 1979 to 2014  indicates “that in 2014, an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide.”

An estimated 22 veterans a day – on average – committed suicide according to a Department of Veterans Affairs report in 2010. But that analysis was limited to data from only 20 states.

CVS MinuteClinics: A Cure For Long Wait Times At Veterans Affairs?

May 25, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press

Struggling with long wait times, the Veterans Affairs Health Care System is trying something new: a partnership with the CVS Pharmacy chain to offer urgent care services to more than 65,000 veterans.

Many veterans are still waiting to see a doctor.

It's been nearly two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire for the amount of time veterans had to wait to see a doctor. The agency scrambled to find a fix, including allowing vets the option of seeing a private doctor via a program they call Veterans Choice.

VA Watchdog Releases Report On Florida Facilities

Mar 2, 2016
VA.gov

Reports documenting scheduling problems and wait-time manipulation at the Department of Veterans Affairs are being made public, as the agency’s internal watchdog bows to pressure from members of Congress and others to improve transparency.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General released 11 reports Monday outlining problems at VA hospitals and clinics in Florida. The reports are the first of 77 investigations to be made public over the next few months.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

The federal government has acknowledged that it wrongly declared more than 100 veterans dead and suspended their benefit payments, and says it is changing its policy of confirming deaths.

Mel Evans / Associated Press

Paralyzed Army veteran Gene Laureano cried when he first walked again with robotic legs at a New York clinic as part of research sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs. But when the study ended, so did his ability to walk.

AP

Researchers studying a degenerative disease in former athletes say 11 of 12 brains of deceased former NFL players tested over the past year showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, continuing a trend they've been tracking.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday it now has fewer than 100,000 disability claims older than four months, a "historic milestone" that is one-sixth the size of a long-term backlog that reached a record 611,000 claims in 2013.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush wants to privatize more veterans care, make it easier to fire federal employees found responsible for poor treatment and overhaul the Pentagon to prioritize an increase in the number of active troops.

The former Florida governor announced those and other veterans policy ideas Monday to open a two-day swing in the early voting state of South Carolina, where he visited a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Charleston and held a town hall-style meeting with veterans in Columbia.

U.S. Department of Defense

The Department of Veterans Affairs faces a serious numbers problem — multiple in fact.

It can't count how many veterans died while waiting to sign up for health care. It says some VA hospitals may have to close if the agency can't get $2.5 billion. And a year after scandal rocked the department, congressional Republicans want to know why the number of employees fired is so low.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller

The Department of Veterans Affairs may have to shut down some hospitals next month if Congress does not address a $2.5 billion shortfall for the current budget year, VA officials warned Monday.

The VA told Congress that it needs to cover shortfalls caused by an increased demand by veterans for health care, including costly treatments for hepatitis C. The agency also is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other steps to close a funding gap for the budget year that ends Sept. 30.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

The number of veterans seeking health care but ending up on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported.

The VA also faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion, the Times reported in a story posted online ahead of its Sunday editions. The agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap, the newspaper reported.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

Troubled by delays in handling veterans claims, a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday urged a wide-scale, independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs for mismanagement and changes to improve budgeting and speed up applications.

A report released by nine senators acknowledged recent efforts by the VA to reduce disability and pensions claims backlogs but said it wasn’t enough. 

Department of Veteran's Affairs

A Jacksonville VA Outpatient Center canceled nearly 60,000 appointments from January 1, 2014 through March 1, 2015, according to a review of federal data obtained by the Florida Times-Union through a Freedom of Information Act request. The Jacksonville clinic is among the worst VA clinics in the country for wait times, the Times-Union reports.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

Responding to pressure from Congress and veterans groups, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing a rule that makes it hard for some veterans in rural areas to prove they live at least 40 miles from a VA health site.

The change comes amid complaints from lawmakers and advocates who say the VA's current policy has prevented thousands of veterans from taking advantage of a new law intended to allow veterans in remote areas to gain access to federally paid medical care from local doctors.

Could Florida do a better job at helping veterans who have mental health issues? Some experts seem think so, like Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Steve Leifman. He’s the chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Court.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

Far fewer veterans than expected are taking advantage of a new law aimed at making it easier for them to get private health care and avoid the long waits that have plagued Department of Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide.

Only 27,000 veterans have made appointments for private medical care since the VA started mailing out "Choice Cards" in November, the VA said in a report to Congress this month.

U.S. Navy

Veterans' health care is a "high risk" budget issue that threatens to cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars unless longstanding problems are addressed, government auditors warned Wednesday.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said health care costs at the Department of Veterans Affairs have nearly tripled since 2002 — to more than $59 billion a year — as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the aging of Vietnam-era veterans.

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg 'Leads the Way'

Sep 24, 2014

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center.

Remsburg was on his tenth deployment when he was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. His teammates found him face down in a water-filled canal with shrapnel in his brain.

He was in a coma when he arrived at the Haley.

North Florida residents are speaking out on their experiences at the Gainesville and Lake Mary Veteran’s Affairs hospitals, saying like other veterans across the country, they have had records lost and have been forced to wait months to see a doctor, the Florida Times-Union reports.

New data on Veterans Affairs hospital wait times show that its Gainesville facility was among the worst in the nation for new patients.

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