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We Need To Talk About The Healthcare Promises Made To Vets
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in trouble and under attack. This shouldn’t be groundbreaking news to anyone — it has been for a long time. With the release of the final report from the Commission on Care — the blue-ribbon panel established to make recommendations to improve VA healthcare services — more fodder has been given to critics who seek to privatize much of how VA serves patients. The report was released last week and much of what it offers is old news — essentially, it serves to give ammunition to viewpoints already held by different stakeholders.
The Koch brothers-funded Concerned Veterans for America believes the final report doesn’t go far enough to privatize VA health care. The American Federation of Government Employees believes the report goes much too far, claiming it will “…destroy the veterans’ healthcare system…”. Disabled American Veterans agreed with some parts of the report, while also expressing concerns about proposals that would privatize some VA healthcare functions. These three perspectives are mostly remarkable for how unremarkable they are, following up on previous statements made by each organization before the report was even released.
What the report has not provided is a robust and beneficial conversation about how much service veterans deserve when it comes to their health care, and how much funding we as a nation are willing to provide to meet those care needs. While the report opens with an acknowledgement that VA health care is often superior in clinical quality to its private sector counterpart, it goes on to attempt to address the main issues that have prompted reform; namely access, inconsistency, and inefficiency.
The most contentious recommendation is also the first in the report: the establishment of a “VHA Care System” to coordinate service through networks of private sector healthcare providers. This recommendation alone has the potential to siphon off large amounts of funding from the VA if implemented in full. Yet the idea that large amounts of specialized providers exist in the areas where access is most challenging is a fantasy. Reports have shown consistently that a shortage of doctors exists relative to demand in rural areas. As recent articles have noted, the more specialized a doctor is in an important field like neurology — an essential field given the numbers of brain injuries sustained by post-9/11 veterans — the less likely they are to establish a practice in a rural community where access needs are greatest. While the Commission on Care report acknowledges the existence of this shortage, it does nothing to address the problem itself.
Indeed, VA has already focused resources and attention on these underserved areas. It has also implemented portions of the Choice Act that seek to cover veterans who need access to care that can be provided faster from the private sector. Finally, VA developed and began implementing a plan long before the Commission on Care’s final report to revolutionize the way service is delivered across the entire department.
But establishing a VHA care system to push veterans into private sector health care does not create additional doctors where not enough exist. Siphoning off funds from the current VHA system into private care could have the unintended consequence of reducing quality for the patients that remain under VA’s charge. And shoving more veterans into the private sector removes them from an organization that consistently delivers care that equals or exceeds patient satisfaction from its counterparts.
What is needed — in addition to continued efficiency improvements at VA — is a more honest public debate surrounding the affordability of healthcare promises made to veterans. If VA is expected to provide quick access to the highest quality care close to every single place a veteran may live, how are they supposed to do so without an overwhelming increase in funding? If that is not the expectation for one agency to tackle, how does draining existing funding from the VHA system help the patients that remain receive the quality of care we want them to continue to enjoy?
The disparity between the expectations leveled upon the VHA system and the possibilities inherent with current funding is not solved by privatizing VA health care, as some have suggested. Nor is it solved by establishing a VHA care system that pushes more veterans into the private sector. Only a measured debate based in the reality of what’s possible — combined with additional improvements in efficiency and management structure — can result in the outcomes of most veterans receiving fast, high-quality care with consistency.
GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.
Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."
Minnesota Democratic Party staffer under fire for calling USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul a 'murder boat'
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."
"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.
William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
'We are there to deter aggression' — Pompeo addressed CENTCOM on Iran mere moments before Shanahan announced his departure
TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."
Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.