Department of Veterans Affairs

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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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 Veterans 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 Veterans 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 Veterans 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 Veterans 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 Veterans 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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

About 25 percent of people who commit suicide in Florida are military veterans, even though they account for just 8 percent of the population, the Florida Times-Union reports.
The deputy director of suicide prevention at the VA says they’re still trying to figure out why the rate is so much higher than in other states.

Frustration over lost documents and denied claims continues for Floridians who blame cancers and other disease on contaminated water at the U.S. Marine base at Camp Lejeune, N.C. decades ago.
 

VA Cuts Paperwork, Offers Flu Shot Options

Dec 3, 2013

Veterans in Florida can now get a flu shot at any of more than 800 Walgreens locations and the drug store will electronically forward their immunization record to the VA.

It's a pilot program being tried out in the Veterans Integrated Service Network 8 (VISN8) which includes all of Florida, southern Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It requires no paper record, no remembering at your next VA health care appointment.

Chris O'Meara / Associated Press

Thanks to a federal program, Chris Ott of Tampa gets a stipend of about $2,000 per month to stay home and care for her son, a Marine veteran who was paralyzed and nearly blinded in the war in Iraq, the Associated Press reports. The rules of the program allow caregiver stipends only for injuries that occurred since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

After backlash erupted when the Department of Veterans Affairs made it tougher to navigate through red tape to get benefits, the agency said it would stop enforcing that rule. But a federal judge says the VA has continued to unfairly deny claims for medical care and other services, and has threatened action against the agency if it doesn’t change its practices, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.  

 

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