KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

VA Health System Scrutiny Draws Headlines

After a veteran commits suicide, his family takes on the challenge of improving the VA system.

The Washington Post: After Veteran Daniel Somers's Suicide, His Family Has A New Mission: Improve VA Services
Howard and Jean Somers have been meeting with VA officials and congressional staffers to tell their son’s story. "If your system is so difficult to get into," Howard Somers asked, "how the hell are you going to prevent suicides?" ... (Daniel's) service in Iraq, including multiple combat missions as a turret gunner, left him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. But the government, he wrote, had "turned around and abandoned me." ... And he was caught in VA's notorious disability claims backlog, which at its peak in March included more than 900,000 compensation requests from veterans, two-thirds of them waiting for more than 125 days (Vogel, 8/23).

Meanwhile, Modern Healthcare reports on the GAO's findings regarding the VA's pay-for-performance bonus system -

Modern Healthcare: Most VA Doctors Get Performance Raises, But GAO Finds No Criteria For Pay Hikes
Eight out of 10 healthcare providers working in the Veterans Health Administration, the healthcare arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, received some form of pay-for-performance bonuses totaling $150 million in 2011. But a federal watchdog agency found no written criteria for the bonuses or any written evaluations justifying them. The Government Accountability Office visited four VA medical centers and learned that several providers who had been disciplined still received bonus pay, according to a 39-page report, "VA Health Care: Actions Needed to Improve Administration of the Provider Performance Pay and Award Systems" (Conn, 8/23).

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