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Posts tagged ‘VA’

VA Wait Times Not Fixed Yet

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has not done enough to prevent schedulers from manipulating appointment wait times.  VA wait-time data remains misleading and underestimates how long veterans wait for care, according to a nonpartisan watchdog report. So fixing the VA wait times is still a long way from done.

“Ongoing scheduling problems continue to affect the reliability of wait-time data,” the Government Accountability Office found.

The Piecemeal Approach to American Veterans Aid

The GAO said the VA has taken a “piecemeal approach” to addressing the problems since the wait-time scandal broke in 2014 in Phoenix, where schedulers falsified wait times and at least 40 veterans died awaiting care. But the agency needs to take comprehensive action, the GAO concluded in its audit, which stretched from January 2015 through last month.

Auditors found schedulers at three of the six medical centers they reviewed had improperly changed dates so the VA system falsely showed shorter or zero wait times. In a review of scheduling records for 60 individual veterans at those three centers, they found improper scheduling in 15  — or 25% — of the appointments.

While the system showed average wait times of between four and 28 days in the cases reviewed, the actual averages were between 11 and 48 days. The audit characterized the schedulers’ actions as mistakes rather than deliberate falsification.

“Until a comprehensive scheduling policy is finalized, disseminated, and consistently followed by schedulers, the likelihood for scheduling errors will persist,” the GAO said in its draft report.

The findings bolster recent claims by VA whistle-blowers that schedulers across the country are still falsifying wait times. And they cast doubt on the effectiveness of corrective actions VA officials touted as recently as 10 days ago.

USA TODAY reported April 7 that the VA inspector general found schedulers at 40 VA medical facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico regularly “zeroed out” veteran wait times and supervisors at seven of those facilities instructed them to do so.

VA Wait Times for Aid and Care

VA officials at the time said many of those probes had been finished more than a year ago and they had already imposed discipline in some cases and instituted refresher training for all schedulers. But local VA officials overseeing five centers told the GAO their own internal audits also found schedulers continuing to enter dates improperly.

The VA, in its response to the GAO report, said it will review the situation and make improvements where necessary by the end of the year.

While we know we can do more to improve our access to American Veterans aid and care, we are aggressively implementing changes in our systems, training and processes to improve access, the statement said.

They claim they are doing everything they can to fix the VA wait times and rebuild the trust of veterans who depend on the VA for care.

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Homeless Veterans Numbers Down by Half

The good news is that the number of homeless veterans in America is down significantly since 2010. According to HUD and the VA the number is 47% overall and some states are even better than that.  Minnesota reports homelessness is down 57% for veterans there.

HUD’s annual Point-in-Time (PIT) estimate of America’s homeless population, communities across the country reported that there were fewer than 40,000 homeless veterans on a given night in January 2016. This change is the result of the partnership among HUD, VA,  USICH, and other federal, state and local partners sparked by the 2010 launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

American Veterans Aid

This kind of American Veterans aid goes a long way towards addressing the problems our soldiers encounter when they come home. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the nation’s homeless veterans are mostly males (four percent are females). The vast majority is single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45 percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems.  So there is much more to deal with than just being homeless.

President Obama hailed this statistic in a speech in Atlanta yesterday.  “We have just about cut veterans homelessness in half. We’ve helped bring tens of thousands of veterans off the streets, but we’re not slowing down,” he said. “We will not stop until every veteran who fought for America has a home in America.”

Michelle Obama plans to hold an event this fall to celebrate this  progress and establish additional milestones in the fight to end veteran homelessness.  The president expressed his commitment to helping and serving the country’s veterans.  “Every single veteran matters,” he said.

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99 year-old American Veteran Still Seeking Benefits

One Filipino World War II veteran is still seeking recognition and equity pay for his service to the U.S. during the war.  Celestino Almeda, who will turn 99 years old this June, still has the determination he had back when he was a member of the Philippine Commonwealth Army under control of the U.S. Army. he regards himself as an American Veteran.

His service and documentation earned him U.S. citizenship and even VA health benefits, but he is yet to see the $15,000 lump sum payment due to Filipino WWII veterans — compensation granted to Filipino veterans after President Barack Obama signed the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act of 2009.

For the last two years, Almeda has been appealing for his equity pay at the congressional level. In May, he had a chance to bring his question to the nation’s capitol. Still no decision has been made.

Read the full story on NBC News

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Older American Veterans Benefits Bill

The Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unveiled recently is a multi billion-dollar American Veterans Aid initiative to phase in robust caregiver benefits for older generations of severely injured veterans.  These benefits were first enacted in 2010 and were only for the post-9/11 generation.

The pool of pre-9/11-era caregivers likely to be eligible for benefits, if the program is expanded, could be as high as 80,000 the VA reported last year.  For these in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries it would mean:

  • cash stipends for their time and effort
  • health insurance for caregivers
  • guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout
  • training to enhance patient safety

There are problems that have to addressed in the current program and some want these fixed before it is expanded to older American Veterans. But it has its supporters too — Adrian Atizado, deputy legislative director for Disabled American Veteran whose national service officers field caregiver complaints, says the VA is not solely to blame as Congress underfunded the program.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., prime architect of the caregiver expansion plan, pointed out that this program is about putting veterans’ needs first and supporting the men and women who put their own lives on hold to take care of veterans.

We agree with her that providing American veterans aid should be a priority and should never be a partisan issue.

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The VA is Not Disneyland

Disneyland’s tag line is The Happiest Place on Earth.  That’s certainly not the way American veterans describe the VA.  And they are irate about The VA Secretary’s comments that because people who go to Disneyland don’t mind the wait because the experience is worth it,  vets should feel the same way about their healthcare.

Disneyland VA 1

Disneyland VA 2

Disneyland VA 3

It’s the encounter with the VA that should be the yardstick, say the Secretary.  So let’s examine what is and isn’t an”encounter.”

Many years ago Jan Carlsson, then CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, wrote a book titled Moments of Truth. In the book he points out that every interaction with a brand is an encounter and will affect how that person feels about your organization.  Every single interaction is a Moment of Truth.

Mr. McDonald is missing the point here.  He thinks that the wait is not an experience with the VA.  Every call, every frustration, every day that goes by without an appointment, every vet that gets sicker while they wait – it’s all part of the “encounter.”  And our veterans don’t have the luxury of choosing a different brand or provider.  They are stuck with the VA.  And they cant get a Speed Pass like you can at Disneyland.

To compare the wait lines of veterans who have served  our country and are in dire need of assistance and aid with people on vacation at Disneyland is just wrong.  It trivializes what these vets have to go through and  why they are in need of aid in the first place.

No wonder our American Veterans have complaints about their aid and assistance and the poor service they get from the VA.

 

 

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