New VA Crisis
Written by Editor   
Thursday, July 30, 2015 10:40 AM

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs asked Congress to allow the agency more discretion in how it spends its money saying the agency otherwise will be forced to shut down a number of hospitals and clinics around the country and delay new authorizations for care by months.  "What we're asking you to do is to use money that's already been appropriated to be spent for care in the community."

Observations:  With statements such as "stressed repeatedly that he was not asking for additional funds” and “ what we're asking you to do is to use money that's already been appropriated”, and “ what we're faced with is, you pass the laws to give veterans benefits. You pass the budget to pay for those benefits and we've got to execute that. When there's a mismatch between those laws and that budget it's a very difficult proposition,” it appears that the VA will be seeking to expend its money in ways other than intended by Congress.

Potential actions: 

  • Keep watch that VA programs that you rely upon are not upset by VA or Congressional budget manipulation.

 

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs asked Congress to allow the agency more discretion in how it spends its money saying the agency otherwise will be forced to shut down a number of hospitals and clinics around the country and delay new authorizations for care by months.

Members of the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs expressed frustration at "the eleventh hour" request.  Asked why he did not report the problem sooner, VA Secretary Robert McDonald, MBA, told the committee, "We thought we had a solution until about the middle of May. And that solution fell apart.”  McDonald stressed repeatedly that he was not asking for additional funds from Congress. "What we're asking you to do is to use money that's already been appropriated for the Choice program for care in the community to be spent for care in the community. That's what we're asking."

In late June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson first told Congress the agency was $2.5 billion short of its fiscal year 2015 budget due to a surge in volume and the unanticipated costs of a newly approved hepatitis C treatment.  McDonald explained to the committee that the budget shortfall was caused by the 7 million additional appointments the VA helped complete this year compared with last year -- 4.5 million among (non-VA) providers in the community and 2.5 million at VA centers.

"Last year you talked about mismanagement being not giving veterans care. Now mismanagement means giving veterans too much care," McDonald said.  McDonald also blamed the complexity of the 7 different programs for care in the community – formerly known as non-VA care. Each program has a different method of reimbursement and distinct exclusions from the others. And when a new program like the Veteran's Choice program -- which enables veterans who've waited for an unreasonably long time for care or who live more than 40 miles from a VA center -- is added, it's difficult to anticipate how well it will do."What happens is providers cherry-pick the program to get the highest reimbursement rates," McDonald said. 

McDonald explained that the VA in some ways is set up to fail. "What we're faced with is, you pass the laws to give veterans benefits. You pass the budget to pay for those benefits and we've got to execute that. When there's a mismatch between those laws and that budget it's a very difficult proposition."


Source:  http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/HealthPolicy/52742