In Likely Preview Of What’s To Come Next Year, VA Secretary Grilled By Increasingly Critical Congress
Fixing the problems that have plagued the VA is one likely area where a divided Congress could find common ground, and Secretary Robert L. Wilkie at a joint House-Senate hearing got a taste of what's likely to be a less friendly audience than he may be used to. Meanwhile, the department has yet to submit criteria about when a veteran would be sent to a private provider.
The New York Times:
Congress Grills Head Of V.A. Over New Health Care Law
Foreshadowing a likely partisan battle next year, Robert L. Wilkie, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, faced sharp questioning from Democrats on Wednesday over how the department will carry out a new expansion of private-sector medical care for veterans. Lawmakers attending a joint House-Senate hearing scrutinized evolving standards at the V.A. that dictate how and when veterans can get care outside of the system’s 1,300 government hospitals and clinics. The Trump administration is expected to better define the standards next year, but some at the hearing were not satisfied. (Steinhauer, 12/19)
VA Was “Taken Advantage Of” By Paying Billions In Fees, Secretary Says
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie acknowledged on Wednesday that his agency got a bad deal in paying nearly $2 billion in fees to companies responsible for booking veterans with private doctors. ... Wilkie was responding to lawmakers’ questions about an investigation published this week by ProPublica and PolitiFact into the Veterans Choice Program. (Arsndorf, 12/19)
VA Has Yet To Detail Criteria For Community Care
Six months after Congress passed a sweeping bill aimed at streamlining and expanding the private sector's role in veterans' healthcare, the Veterans Affairs Department has yet to disclose the criteria it will use to send a veteran out to a community physician or hospital. These criteria, or "designated access standards" in VA and congressional parlance, will determine how expansive the community program will be. As a result, debate over what they should be is a political linchpin, driving sharp warnings from key Democrats that the Trump administration's handling of them will lead to a privatizing of the VA. (Luthi, 12/19)
And in other military and health care news —
The Washington Post:
They Tested Positive For HIV. Then The Military Kicked Them Out.
Testing positive for HIV was difficult enough. Getting forced out of the military by the Air Force because of the diagnosis proved even harder. So say two U.S. airmen who filed suit on Wednesday against Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, arguing that the Pentagon’s decision last month to discharge them from the military owing to their HIV status violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause and federal law. They have asked the court to strike down the decision. (Sonne, 12/19)