While a Good First Step, Critical Questions Remain Unanswered in Bipartisan Bill on VA Health Care

United States Capitol DomeIn response to the McCain-Sanders bill on VA health care announced June 5, 2014, Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) Executive Director Homer Townsend released the following statement:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is encouraged by a possible compromise agreement between Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders and Senator John McCain. While we are pleased to see Republican and Democratic senators finally working to achieve legislative compromise, we believe a number of critical questions must be answered before going forward:

  • How will continuity of care, seamless medical record exchange, and accountability be assured when non-contracted, non-VA providers are added to a veteran’s circle of care?
  • What actions will Congress take when doctors choose not to accept veterans as patients because they choose not to accept the Medicare rate (a common and growing problem in the medical provider community)?
  • How will Congress respond when reimbursements to private providers are not provided in a timely manner?
  • What actions will Congress take when it becomes apparent that the private sector cannot provide timely access to high-quality care as well?
  • What actions will Congress take when it becomes evident that the care being provided in the private sector is substandard to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)?
  • Will Congress provide the additional funds that will be absolutely necessary to support such a program when it becomes apparent that the cost of care provided in the private sector is significantly more expensive than care currently provided in the VA system?

These issues must be carefully examined—and definitive congressional action defined—prior to approval of any compromise, as they will dictate success or failure. It is imperative that Congress not act with such haste to approve a so-called solution to the access problems within the VA system without undertaking meaningful analysis.

Paralyzed Veterans appreciates the recognition by Senators McCain and Sanders that a Secretary should not have free reign to fire an executive in VA without just cause. We also appreciate the senators’ willingness to address the capacity problems that exist in the VA health care system by providing direct hire authority to bring more doctors, nurses, and health care providers into the system. Similarly, we are pleased to see that positive steps are finally being taken to secure new major medical facility leases around the country and to get these facilities open and providing care.

Now, however, it is incumbent upon Congress and the Administration to ensure that VA is provided all of the resources necessary to provide timely, quality care—first and foremost in the VA health care system and, when necessary, in the private sector. Meanwhile, it is unacceptable for members of Congress to continue to claim that VA has enough resources to fulfill its mission when it clearly does not.

Paralyzed Veterans is committed to ensuring that VA remains a viable health care system. Our members—veterans with spinal cord injury and dysfunction—and all veterans with specialized health care needs have no choices outside of VA, as comparable care simply does not exist in the private sector. As Congress moves to reform the VA health care system, this fact must remain foremost in their mind.

Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill


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    While a Good First Step, Critical Questions Remain Unanswered in Bipartisan Bill on VA Health Care