DAV Leader: VA Healthcare System Needs Strengthening

The national legislative director of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) says the Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system needs a long-term plan to strengthen it.

Testifying May 12 in front of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Joseph Violante recommended a new four-part strategy that would reform the current, much-maligned VA system.

In a news announcement, Violante said, “The past year has largely focused on short-term solutions for the VA to meet the immediate needs of veterans. But as we analyze and evaluate how these strategies have worked, we owe it to veterans to also develop a long-term plan to strengthen the VA moving forward. The framework we are proposing today addresses critical areas to rebuild, restructure, realign and reform the VA healthcare system to meet the needs of America’s veterans well into the future.”


Last year, the VA healthcare system made national headlines after investigations revealed some veterans had to wait months for doctor appointments – and that some veterans died while waiting to see a physician. The epicenter of the scandal was the Phoenix VA Health Care System, which claimed reduced waiting times for appointments. Whistleblower accounts and ensuing government investigations found the Phoenix VA was instead detouring veterans onto electronic waiting lists – or was excluding veterans from waiting lists entirely -- to hide the fact that waits for appointments could be excruciatingly long.

Additional audits pointed out scheduling problems existed for many VA Health Care Systems across the country.

Speaking before members of Congress, Violante recommended four key action points:

-- Rebuilding the VA’s ability to provide timely, high-quality care, which requires hiring sufficient clinical staffers at all VA medical facilities.

-- Reorganizing non-VA care into a single integrated care network after the VA finished studying the current “Choice” program, which allows veterans to seek, at VA expense, medical care outside the VA network under certain circumstances.

-- Expanding VA healthcare services to meet the needs of future veterans, including the creation of urgent care services for veterans.

-- Reforming management of the VA healthcare system to increase efficiency, transparency and accountability for the future.

“As we are still in the process of reviewing the effectiveness of the Choice program, it’s too soon to outline specific details of how to reform the VA healthcare system and non-VA care,” Violante said. “But what we have done is establish a road map to help guide us.”

Violante also identified sufficient VA funding as a key factor to the healthcare system’s long-term success.

The DAV news announcement pointed out that the VA provides “highly specialized care to more than 3.8 million disabled veterans, specifically those who have suffered service-connected amputations, burns, paralysis, blindness, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine said in the announcement, “The VA faces serious challenges and is in need of a pathway for reform that will uphold our nation’s promise to care for America’s wounded, ill and injured veterans. Rather than fracturing veterans’ healthcare, DAV believes the VA must be strengthened and should remain at the heart of how we deliver care to those who served.”

The DAV is a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. Today, it has 1.2 million members.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.