KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Congress And The VA Deal With Complications Of Veterans’ Health Care

The Associated Press/The Washington Post: Pressure from Congress telling the Department of Veterans Affairs that it should make it easier for veterans to settle their disability claims is seeing some controversy. "The system is dysfunctional, an open invitation to fraud. And the VA has proposed changes that could make deception even easier."

The high number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has made it easy for some veterans to fake the disease, "profitably working the levers of sympathy for the wounded and obligation to the troops, and exploiting the sheer difficulty of nailing a surefire diagnosis of a condition that is notoriously hard to define. … Each of these cases represents potentially millions of dollars in tax-free benefits over the veteran's lifetime - benefits that may continue while the veteran works and even into retirement."

A lack of clinicians that do disability evaluations can be blamed for the failure to catch fraudulent claims, and also for the long wait times, according to some. But clinicians also don't feel like its their job to verify their patient's stories. "When asked whether the new rule would throw open the doors to more fraud, [VA Secretary Eric] Shinseki stressed the need for more research into PTSD and traumatic brain injury, the war on terror's other 'signature' wound" (Breed, 5/2). 

CongressDaily: Meanwhile House Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner is fighting for more funding for veterans' mental health. Filner is "[i]nspired by what he considers reliable studies that conclude far more Vietnam War veterans committed suicide than the 58,000-plus killed on the battlefield." He is pushing for 15 percent of all war funding to go towards veteran treatment. "He said he will attempt to add a veterans' surcharge to the next Defense supplemental appropriations bill expected to come before the House 'in a couple of weeks.'"

"Because military men and women in uniform are stigmatized if they seek professional help for the demons in their minds that can make committing suicide an inviting exit, Filner wants health specialists to evaluate everyone after he or she comes out of a battle zone to determine if they suffer from brain damage or other invisible wounds" (Wilson, 5/3). 

Imperial Valley News: A pilot program that required the VA to conduct a three-year demonstration project that would help veterans in rural areas receive health care more easily is up for review. The program "was authorized in the 110th Congress and required the VA to conduct a three-year demonstration project in five regions where highly rural veterans enrolled in the VA health care system may receive covered services through non-VA providers." The program is important, the article says, because of the high number of veterans who live in and are recruited from rural areas (5/2). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.