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Gibson: VA needs $17.6 billion to meet demands

Gibson: VA needs $17.6 billion to meet demands

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs July 16, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson outlined serious problems regarding access to health care and key actions the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken to get veterans off wait lists and into clinics.

Gibson discussed six key priorities to begin restoring trust:

1. Get Veterans off wait lists and into clinics;

2. Fix systemic scheduling problems;

3. Address cultural issues;

4. Hold people accountable where willful misconduct or management negligence are documented;

5. Establish regular and ongoing disclosures of information; and,

6. Quantify the resources needed to consistently deliver timely, high-quality healthcare.

Gibson testified that VA needs approximately $17.6 billion in additional resources to meet current demand for the remainder of fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2017. This funding would address challenges such as clinical staff, space, information technology, and benefits processing necessary to provide timely, high-quality care and benefits.

Gibson also outlined actions that VA is taking now in order to address problems with access to VA healthcare, including:

• The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has reached out to over 160,000 veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics. VHA has also made over 543,000 referrals for veterans to receive care in the private sector – 91,000 more than in the comparable period a year ago.

• VHA facilities are adding more clinic hours, aggressively recruiting to fill physician vacancies, deploying mobile medical units, using temporary staffing resources, and expanding the use of private sector care.

• VA is moving rapidly to augment and improve its existing scheduling system while simultaneously pursuing the purchase of a “commercial off-the-shelf” state-of-the-art system.

• Gibson has directed medical center and network directors to conduct monthly inspections, in person, of their clinics to assess the state of scheduling practices and to identify any related obstacles to timely care for veterans. To date, over 1,100 of these visits have been conducted.

• Gibson has directed a comprehensive external audit of scheduling practices across the entire VHA system.

• Gibson has personally visited ten VA medical centers in the last six weeks to hear directly from the field on the actions being taken to get veterans off wait lists and into clinics, and he will continue to make site visits.

• The inappropriate 14-day access measure has been removed from all individual employee performance plans to eliminate any motive for inappropriate scheduling practices. In the course of completing this task, over 13,000 performance plans were amended.

• Where willful misconduct or management negligence is documented, appropriate personnel actions will be taken, including cases of whistleblower retaliation.

• Gibson froze VHA Central Office and VISN Office headquarters hiring – as a first step to ensure all employees are working to support those delivering care directly to veterans.

• VHA has dispatched teams to provide direct assistance to facilities requiring the most improvement, including a large team on the ground, right now, in Phoenix.

• All VHA senior executive performance awards for fiscal year 2014 have been suspended.

• VHA is expanding use of private-sector care to improve access.

• Gibson sent a message to all 341,000 VA employees – and has reiterated during every visit to VA facilities – that whistleblowers will be protected, and that he will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers.

• Gibson has conducted over a dozen meetings and calls with senior representatives of veteran and military service organizations and other stakeholder groups to solicit their ideas for improving access and restoring trust.

• Gibson has made a number of personnel announcements in recent weeks, including: Dr. Carolyn Clancy as interim Under Secretary for Health; Dr. Jonathan Perlin, a former Under Secretary for Health, on temporary assignment as Senior Advisor to the Secretary; Dr. Gerard Cox as Interim Director of the Office of Medical Inspector; and Ms. Leigh Bradley as Special Counsel to the Secretary.

• As VA completes reviews, fact-finding, and other investigations, the department is beginning to initiate personnel actions to hold those accountable who committed wrongdoing or were negligent in discharging their management responsibilities.

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Buff Green

July 19, 2014 - 8:25pm

When are the VA employees responsible for this tragedy going to be fired?

Linda House

July 17, 2014 - 7:49pm

It isn't just in the larger cities that these delays are occurring. I live in rural Iowa and had to wait over 9 months to get a much needed surgery. I finally had to get approval from the VA to allow me to get this done outside the VA system. They covered the cost but the fact that it took that long isn't acceptable for any vet to have to wait.

John Sharp

July 17, 2014 - 4:33pm

In addition to my earlier 'comment' I neglected to mention that since my in-ability to pay the payments on my copay & added interest charges..the Treasury Dept. has now taken portions of my Social Security,my sole source of income, every month which further diminish my ability to cover normal month fixed expenses..But, this is NO WHERE NEAR the CHALLENGES MANY VETERANS ARE NEGLECTFULLY BEING SUBJECTED! Just another 'nail' in the governments commitment 'coffin' !

John Sharp

July 17, 2014 - 4:20pm

As a Korean War Veteran & experienced very minor incidents of 'delay' , co pay charges being discontinued..then re-established without notification & incurring several hundreds of dollars of charges creating 'late fees'..by comparison to the dismal & unjustifiable situations so many of our veterans are being challenged with today by ANY means of comparison..I just read where Obama is seeking 3.7 BILLION DOLLARS to aid the illegals invading our boarders..WHERE THE HELL IS HE WHEN OUR VETERANS ARE IN PERIL..He, NOT having ANY MILITARY involvement doesn't have ANY idea of what being in the military & it's importance is to our National Security. He's the most inept person to have been elected as president & has no business being the 'Commander in Chief'..He's NOT QUALIFED IN EITHER POSITION.

John Marker

July 17, 2014 - 3:22pm

Fact: Illegal Immigrates get better health care than our veterans! Why can't someone explain this...? The VA needs to be closed down..additional funding has not or will not solve the problems. Solutions will. Every veteran should be able to go to the private sector for health card..The VA has not changed in 40 years, why would anyone think throwing more money will fix it?

cowboyup

July 16, 2014 - 1:19pm

Well Secretary Gibson received my letter I sent registered over a month ago and NOT ONE RESPONSE. Phoenix Regional Ratings and American Legion Representatives have thrown me to the curb "AGAIN" as of this morning. Yet, it was Commander Dellengers Office who sent me to this American Legion Rep in Phoenix. Whos Office is in the same building as Phoenix Regional. According to a June 17th 2014 email, he stated he wanted to help me with my service connected Apnea which I have been fighting since 2008. Now I'm told his supervisor has instructed him to release me. This is why Veterans have NO HOPE, Commit Suicide, Depression relapse on my PTSD, on and on and on. This is twice in 6 months I have been told to go get help from someone else when American Legion are my POA's. Thanks Sloan Gibson for your "NO RESPONSE". Thanks American Legion for throwing me back out in the streets. 90% service connected and this is what I deserve? This is all check the box b------t. Why don't you folks just hand us a gun and say pull here. At least were not suffering under false promises. SGT John Tedford OIF Arizona Veteran

Michael Henry

July 17, 2014 - 3:26pm

Have you ever considered using another group? There about 8-10 groups to choose from and are willinng to help. I am waiting on a sleep apnea claim myself but I was told there are a huge number of doctor appointments in the works at the PHX VA hospital. You shouldn't have to wait nowhere near that long for antything.

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