In 2014 a scandal over false records and extremely long waiting times created havoc in the Department of Veterans Affairs, 40 veterans died waiting for care. Since then the number of veterans that go on waiting lists of minimum one month is more than 50 percent. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA or DVA) is a military veteran benefit system run by the government.
The New York Times reported that the VA is facing a budget shortfall of $3billion. Measures are being taken to decrease the gap between budgets by considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other such moves.
Although in the last year VA has increased its capacity by 7 million patient visits per year, twice as much as what officials initially thought was required to fill the gap, but still department officials were over whelmed with the physician’s workloads and demand from the veterans. Times reported that quite a few major veteran hospitals saw demand increase by one-fifth.
Compared to any previous year’s records, the doctors and nurses have handled 2.7 million more appointments, also authorizing 900,000 patients to see outside physicians. This information was gathered through interviews with department officials and internal department budget documents that Times had obtained.
There has been an internal debate going on at the VA over a proposal to address a shortage of funds for a more effective but more costly hepatitis C treatment by rationing the new treatments between the veterans. Meaning that veterans, who are in vegetative state, suffer from a terminal disease or have advanced dementia, would be excluded from the treatment.
Times reported that officials hope to petition Congress this week in a bid to allow them to shift money into programs running short of cash. However this may not be received very positively because it means removing funds from a new program which allows veterans on waiting lists to choose taxpayer-paid care from private doctors which are outside the department’s health system.
Sloan D. Gibson, department’s deputy secretary, says that something has to give because we cannot meet the needs of the veterans and veterans are showing us that by coming in for additional care, and we are not able to deliver it as timely as we would like to.