Veterans news update for Oct. 18

Veterans news update for Oct. 18

Veterans news updateVA’s Choice Card: Uncertainty swirls as deadline nears (Tacoma News-Tribune)
Congress in August gave the Department of Veteran Affairs 90 days to issue medical “Choice Cards” to 9.1 million veterans enrolled in VA care. The deadline of Nov. 5 won’t be met, say representatives of major veteran organizations who attend periodic VA briefings on plans for rollout of the Choice Card. The card will ensure veterans have access to private sector health care if they reside more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital, or if they face unacceptable waits, usually longer than 30 days, to access VA health care. The simple guarantee, centerpiece of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, is not so simple to deliver, at least in 90 days.

Problems at Waco VA draw attention from Congress (Associated Press)
A Texas congressman says Veteran Affairs mental health research will be reviewed after a newspaper found millions of squandered dollars at a Waco facility just as brain injuries were spiking among U.S. service members. U.S. Rep. Bill Flores said a “broad discussion” about the role of the VA in health care research is needed and that congressional panel would begin scheduling hearings early next year. The Austin-American Statesman reported that the decision comes after the newspaper found that the Waco Center of Excellence couldn’t recruit enough brain imaging experts and was paralyzed by internal squabbles.

Women veterans deserve equal care (CNN)
Commentary: “More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These brave women sacrificed much to keep us safe. Now that they are home, or soon to be home, our country has a solemn obligation to help them transition back to civilian life. Yet there is mounting evidence that America is not fulfilling this obligation. Based on data gathered by the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, a recent report by Disabled American Veterans finds it clear that our country isn’t fully meeting the unique physical, emotional and employment needs of women who served in uniform.”

VA reforms: More hurry up and wait (Wall Street Journal)
Commentary: “On Aug. 7, President Obama signed into law a $16.3 billion bill to “overhaul” the Veterans Affairs health-care system. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act was lauded by the White House and Congress as a law that put vets back in the driver’s seat. But that’s just not so. Supporters claim the new law allows veterans to see private doctors more quickly. Not true. Only in cases where the veteran has waited longer than the “wait time goals” of the VA can that veteran be seen by an outside doctor. What are the wait time goals? It’s hard to say. The law first defines them as 30 days. But one paragraph later the law allows the VA secretary to submit “actual” wait time goals to Congress. If the actual wait time is longer than 30 days, the actual wait time supplants the 30-day “wait time goal.” One wonders how Congress and the White House could high-five over that language. Even if the vet manages to live through the wait time and see a private doctor, he can only stay with that doctor for 60 days before it’s back to the VA to start all over again. Why bother?”

Veteran’s death sparks fight for safe crossing to VA clinic (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Army veteran Willie Span did not die on a battlefield. He was not killed by enemy fire or old war wounds. Instead, he was killed by an oncoming car whose driver did not see him in the predawn light. Span, 70, died Oct. 2 while trying to cross Commercial Boulevard. His destination: a VA clinic in Sunrise that sits across the street from Span’s bus stop in Tamarac. Even though dozens of veterans have used that bus stop, Span is the only pedestrian hit and killed by a car at that location over the past five years, police say. And officials from Sunrise, Tamarac and Broward County want to make sure he is the last.

Portland VA worker’s spouse found files at home containing veterans’ personal information (KOIN-Portland)
After the “isolated” release of protected health information, the Portland VA Medical Center is offering free credit monitoring to 1,740 veterans. The Portland VA said the spouse of an employee made the discovery that a veteran’s name, Social Security number and other health-specific information was found at her home. The employee took some lists home that had “basic information: names, Social Security number, last appointment, name of provider,” said Portland VA Medical Center spokesperson Dan Herrigstad.

Pittsburgh VA director gets more time to appeal firing recommendation (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is giving the suspended director of its Pittsburgh-area hospitals more time to convince top officials they shouldn’t fire her. The VA, citing federal privacy laws, would not say how long it extended her appeal period, or the specific reasons Terry Gerigk Wolf gave when she requested it. The VA’s Office of Accountability Review recommended firing Wolf on Oct. 3 after investigating her handling of a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed at least six and sickened at least 16. The Accountability Office determined she engaged in “conduct unbecoming a senior executive.” Wolf is suspended with pay and continues to receive her $179,700 annual salary.

Suit against Young VA center claims veteran died as a result of delays (Tampa Tribune)
Back in April, the Department of Veterans Affairs released the results of its investigation into cancer deaths that occurred as the result of delayed gastrointestinal treatment. The report found that none of the deaths occurred at either the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa or the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg, but that two patients at the Young center, then known as Bay Pines, and one at Haley had been informed that they were harmed as the result of their care. A federal wrongful death lawsuit filed in the Middle District of Florida by attorney Alan Wagner claims that Navy veteran William Halverson died of colon cancer on Feb. 6, 2013 as the result of delays in treatment at the Young center. And that before he died, hospital officials informed Halverson that their care had been negligent.