114th Congress, First Session Priorities
As a result of the serious scrutiny that the VA health care system experienced last year, Congress approved on a bipartisan basis P.L. 113-146, the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act (VACAA), to expand purchased care outside of the VA to address the problems that were identified. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the VA’s specialized services—spinal cord injury care, amputee care, blinded care, polytrauma care, mental health care—are incomparable resources that cannot be duplicated and sustained in the private sector. Moreover, establishing a scenario whereby veterans can choose to leave the VA health care system—a reality of the VACAA—places the entire system at risk.
The viability of the VA health care system depends upon a fully integrated system where all of the services support each other. Sending veterans into the private health care marketplace serves only to support part of this principle while undermining others. Similarly, contract care simply is not a viable option for veterans with the most complex and specialized health care needs. Sending those individuals outside of the VA actually places their health at significant risk while abrogating VA of the responsibility to ensure timely delivery of high quality health care for our nation’s veterans. This does not suggest that leveraging coordinated, purchased care is not part of the solution to access problems in the VA. However, granting easier access to the private sector should not come at the expense of the existing health care system and the men and women who rely almost solely on the VA for their health care.
Paralyzed Veterans of America believes that VA has done a reasonably good job of rolling out the “choice” program created by VACAA. That being said, it will be incumbent upon Congress and the veterans’ service organization stakeholders to ensure that the highest quality health care is delivered in a timely manner, both inside of the VA health care system and outside in the private sector.