VA Wellness and the Prioritization Problem
by Elana Duffy
Last Friday was a busy day for VA Secretary Shulkin: New legislation for enhanced whistleblower protections and shortened investigative and termination procedures for VA employees was signed into effect, indicating a welcome change in administrative practices to ensure improved quality of service through ensuring the right people with the right priorities are in the right positions.
Following the signature, Secretary Shulkin spoke to the press on issues beyond the bill, hinting at his new direction for VA healthcare. It was during this impromptu presser that Shulkin uttered the words “Our system incentivizes disability, when our system should be incentivizing health and well-being."Read more
Rewiring the Network: Changes Needed in VA Healthcare
by Elana Duffy
Secretary Shulkin and his team at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) have been busy. From recent bills passed to upgrade Bad Paper Discharges to the extension of the VA Choice Program, VA is certainly not sitting still.
These were easy wins. Expanded access to mental health care, reducing mental health stigma with the re-evaluation of behavioral discharges for those diagnosed with PTSD, and extending Choice were no-brainers. That these wins were easy does not diminish their value; these programs and policies were needed victories. But they were easy upgrades, like downloading the latest smartphone operating system to improve performance: small changes with moderate impact.
So now I would like to see VA not just upgrade the operating system but rewire the network. I want them to take on a challenge that isn’t so easy, but one that attacks a root condition so time and money spent implementing yields huge results.
Drain the Swamp? How the Hiring Freeze Hurts Veteran Healthcare
by Dan Gorman
I’m a combat veteran who receives medical services from the VA here in Manhattan. For a long time, I avoided going because I felt that I wasn’t injured enough to warrant care, or at least not in the same way or degree that some of our more traumatized brethren are. But after battling frequent migraines and a bad back for the last ten years, I decided to reengage and see if there were any treatments that may help.
My first impression was that, by and large, the folks at the VA do greatly care about their patients and clients. Of course there are outliers, but the overall care is there. Following that, I quickly realized that this is a large, sluggish system that is working on old models of providing services and is woefully underequipped to be responsive and flexible—two traits the veteran community deserves.Read more
Concerns About the "VA Accountability and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016"
by Kent Eiler
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, but Congress looks likely to pass some version of the "VA Accountability and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016." The summer of 2014 saw the passage of the "Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act". That members of Congress want to pass significant veterans legislation headed into a fall election season comes as no shock but it's important for veterans advocates to look at, and evaluate, proposed legislation from an efficacy standpoint. Looking at this legislation I would share with you my own concerns about the proposed legislation. The number one concern most veterans have who appeal a VA's decision is the length of time those appeals take to wind their way through the VA's complicated adjudication system. In my view, the current proposed legislation provides no realistic plan for how the more than 450,000 pending appeals at the VA will be handled in a timely and fair fashion.
Testimony on Toxic Exposure Research Act and Burn Pit Legislation
On April 21, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony before the NYC Council Committee on Veterans on proposed Resolution 579-A calling on Congress to pass and the President to sign the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015. We were the only organization other than the Vietnam Veterans of America to present testimony at this hearing, and the testimony itself was followed by an informative, in-depth discussion of the toxic exposures of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and OEF/OIF veterans.Read more