On October 7th, VA Secretary Bob McDonald sat in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and announced that yet another study concerning the VA health care system was ready for them. The study, which cost taxpayers a mere $68 million and used up 4000 pages of paper, basically reported the same things that other studies have shown. This latest version took a year to complete. For his part, McDonald said that he and his team have been working to correct problems found in earlier studies.
This new study makes 188 recommendations and was completed by government health experts and outside industry analysts. It is known as the “Independent Assessment” of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). At least one politician, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the committee chairman, gave it high marks saying it would work as a good guide for getting VA healthcare on track, but that was all he had to say in terms of praise.
McDonald said he was impressed with the study’s depth, but also added that the study identified many issues that he was already aware of and working to fix. He went on to say that the study would have value if it caused Congress to act more strongly in terms of helping his agency to correct problems and to understand that the VA is actually making some headway.
He told the committee: “I think this is the most important hearing that we’ve had since I’ve become secretary because it’s the first hearing that we’ve had on the transformation of VA.”
There were some heated comments, right from the start of the hearing, when Rep. Miller said to other members of the committee that they would certainly hear more of the same old talking points they get whenever McDonald sits before them. Miller suggested that members should not expect to hear about any new plan that would actually make a difference in fixing the many problems the VA healthcare system is facing. For the most part, he was right.
Miller also took issue with McDonald’s criticism of the House-passed VA budget for fiscal year 2016. McDonald has said that the new budget would result in over 70,000 veterans being denied care. Miller said this is not true, and that the budget actually increased VA discretionary budget levels.
There have been 138 studies completed now concerning the VHA.
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