• VA Officials May Start Closing Hospitals Unless They Get $2.5 Billion In Funding

    VA officials stated Monday that unless they meet a $2.5 billion dollar gap in funding, they may start closing hospitals.

    The department claims that it is dealing with major cost increases from a growing veteran population and increasing demand, as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down to a close, The Associated Press reports. Costs have soared, and so have wait times. The number of veterans waiting a month or more for an appointment has doubled in the past year. (RELATED: Could It Get Any Worse? VA Wait Times Up 50 Percent From Last Year)

    To make up the shortfall, officials are instituting medical rationing and hiring freezes. Just one pill to treat the infection Hepatitis C can cost the VA about $1,000 dollars, and in total, yearly treatments for Hepatitis C alone cost $500 million.

    Additionally, officials are eyeing the VA Choice Program as an ideal source of funding. Congress established the Choice program in 2014, allocating it $10 billion over three years, in order to mitigate the problem of never-ending waitlists.

    The program works by permitting veterans to see private health providers in the event that they wait a month or longer for a medical appointment at a VA facility. While at first, VA officials tried to point to low rates of use as reason for terminating the program and re-appropriating the funds elsewhere, outside observers have argued that the VA has tried to subvert the program from the beginning.

    First, the VA tried to interpret the legislation creating the program to mean that if any VA facility exists within 40 miles of a veteran, then the program doesn’t apply, even if the facility does not provide the care the veteran needs. According to lawmakers, this move was in clear contradiction to legislative intent.

    Moreover, staff are also poorly trained and often turn away veterans fully qualified for the program.

    Chris Dorsey, a veteran who was turned away after staff told him they weren’t accepting any new patients, wasn’t even aware that the program existed. No employees volunteered any information when he visited the clinic. (RELATED: VA Employee Tells Veteran That They Aren’t Accepting New Patients [VIDEO])

    Lawmakers haven’t responded too kindly to the VA posting a shortfall with very little notice in advance, especially since it appears to be a repetition of the same sort of budget planning errors the VA makes so frequently.

    “This is far from the first time VA has disclosed problems far too late and turned its blatant mismanagement into a fiscal emergency,” Miller said on Monday night.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

     

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