Make sure veterans have care they need



By David Sandman

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is again under fire for the dangerously long waiting lists for appointments at the nation’s VA health care facilities, and for calculating those wait times in a way that masks the true extent of the problem.

Veterans are waiting weeks and even months to get routine care, according to another damning report by the Government Accountability Office. Congress is again holding hearings on the matter. This routine is too familiar. Clearly, changes need to be made at the VA to ensure that all of our veterans have access to the care and services they need and deserve.

The VA system is a vital source of care for our nation’s veterans and needs to be preserved and further strengthened. It performs at least as well as and usually better than private hospitals on key quality measures related to screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care.

But we also know from research conducted by the RAND Corporation that nearly half of New York veterans prefer tohire vets receive their care not at the VA, but through civilian health care providers in their own communities. Nearly two-thirds of New York’s veterans have insurance coverage outside the VA, and prefer to see the same doctors that their family members, neighbors, and co-workers see. Some want to get their health care services close to home; others are actively turned off by the limited hours and long wait times at VA facilities. Still others are concerned about the potential stigma of getting treatment for a mental health or substance use disorder at a VA center.

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