KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Veterans’ Health: Measuring The Scope Of Mental Health Challenges

NPR profiles retired General Eric Shinseki, the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and his efforts to measure the scope of veterans' mental health issues. In his first nine months in this position, he "has spent hours just listening to veterans talk. Shinseki tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he feels a strong obligation to 'give back' to the men and women he once served with." NPR reports on the task Shinseki faces: "Since 2001, more than 1 million new veterans have come into a system that is being stretched thin." One of Shinseki's missions to improve the care and resources available to these vets is to work with the Department of Defense to "create a computer-driven system that will track service personnel through their careers - including when they become veterans. The idea, he said, is to use automatic enrollment to create VA health records for service members when they join the military. 'So when the uniform comes off, we have all the evidence we need to make faster, better, smarter adjudications,' Shinseki said" (Inskeep, 11/13).

Meanwhile, in other VA news, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on legislation being advanced by Rep. John Adler, D-N.J., that would increase oversight at VA clinics. Adler "announced yesterday that he hopes to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to report to Congress the quality of all the small programs in its hospitals and other medical facilities. The goal is to prevent a repeat of problems that plagued prostate cancer care at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center as well as programs at other VA hospitals." Adler's measure focuses on three specific concerns: "small programs, where medical errors and poor care are most likely to avoid detection; radiation safety; and contracts with private doctors and hospitals" Goldstein, 11/12).

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