America’s Biggest Publicly Funded, Fully Integrated Health-Care System Is Under Attack

 The Veterans Health Administration is a successful example of a single-payer system in the United States. It’s time for progressives to defend it.

 In the Bay Area, public meetings critical of conservatives are not hard to find. But when about 200 San Francisco military veterans jammed into an auditorium in their city’s Veterans War Memorial Building in mid-April, they added diversity to the local “resistance.” Those in attendance—representatives of veterans-service organizations, patients of the Veterans Health Administration, health-policy experts, and local Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi—were trying to educate veterans and the public about proposals that could destroy a single-payer plan for 9 million Americans whose past military service, in combat and noncombat jobs, makes them eligible for VHA coverage. READ MORE

Trump’s plan to privatize the VA will hurt vets.

 In June, Congress passed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Act, which makes it easier to dismiss any of the 300,000 employees of the Veterans Administration.

Republicans and Democrats who supported the legislation argued that VA care givers must be held accountable to the highest standards of  clinical excellence and ethical behavior.

At a subsequent bill signing, President Donald Trump pledged that managerial or staff misconduct — like the falsification of data about wait times for patient appointments at a few VA hospitals — will never occur again. READ MORE

Yes, Trump is privatizing the VA

New proposals announced by the Trump Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin should dispel any doubt about the administration’s intentions to privatize the Veterans Health Administration.

Although President Donald Trump and Shulkin have insisted they are opposed to privatization, the proposal the VA Secretary unveiled to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on June 7 – coupled with Trump’s Veterans Health Administration budget – will end up pushing more veterans to private doctors and hospitals, and ultimately dismantle the VHA system. READ MORE HERE

The Best Health Care Money Can’t Buy

Private-sector medicine saved me. The VA gave me my life back.

I was flat on my back staring in terror at the hall ceiling, like a turtle some malicious child had upended. I couldn’t move my arms or legs. My wife, Nancy, heard me cry out. She came running and saw me floundering at the foot of the stairs, where I had fallen midway through my morning exercises.

“Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” Nancy said in a panicked tone of voice. She frantically dialed 911. In a matter of moments, I heard a siren come to a high-pitched halt outside. Several black-clothed, heavy-booted first responders came stampeding up the stairs to our house. The one in charge leaned over me. His face hovered above mine like a harvest moon. READ MORE

American Legion calls VA budget proposal ‘stealth privatization’

The country’s largest veterans service organization said Friday that it was “extremely disappointed” with President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which includes cuts to benefits for some of the country’s most disabled veterans.

Trump proposed trimming $3.2 billion in fiscal 2018 from one benefit program and saving another $20 million by reinstating a practice of rounding down veterans’ annual cost-of-living adjustments. The savings from both would be used to expand VA services into the private sector through a new version of the Veterans Choice Program, according to budget documents. READ MORE HERE

An open letter to the editor about a recent Northern California VHA case.

I saw your recent article about Mr. Ross’s death at the Palo Alto VA. Each death we experience is tragic and my heart certainly goes out to his family in this time. There is likely nothing I could say to ease their pain right now.

However, one thing that I can do is ease the pain of other veterans like Mr. Ross. While every institution has room to improve, I want to provide a bit of background information that I think is missing from the discussion of VA healthcare these days. I’m a researcher, with a focus on health and wellness, and the role of systems in promoting health improvement. I run a non-profit, Open Source Wellness, focused on using the power of community to transform health behaviors, and I have researched the VA, examining the quality of care provided there.

Overall, the data on the VA are quite clear. They demonstrate that, taken as a whole, the VA provides as good or better care than non-VA hospitals, it provides this care to a more elderly, more ill population, and it does so for less money than it would cost in the community. I imagine this sounds like a striking statement to make – it’s very at odds with what we’re hearing these days. However, it’s quite well documented:

This is a short overview of the literature, summarizing the research available comparing VA and non-VA care. It shows the bulk of studies find the VA does a better job of adhering to treatment guidelines, has better outcomes in outpatient care (e.g., primary care, diabetes care), and has comparable outcomes in inpatient care (e.g., surgery).

Here is a recent, thorough review comparing the quality of care between VA hospitals and non-VA hospitals. They found that, across 36 studies in general, though there were a few exceptions, VA hospitals provided as good or better care than non-VA hospitals.

Here is another comprehensive review of the quality of care between VA hospitals and non-VA facilities. It’s quite thorough, documenting over 50 comparing VA to non-VA care, with similar outcomes.

I hope you’ll take the time to examine the data on VA healthcare. Our Veterans depend on the high quality care the VA provides. Stories that suggest community care is better than VA care perpetuate a myth that threatens the healthcare that our Veterans not only depend on, but when asked, prefer.

Thanks for your time,

Ben Emmert-Aronson, Ph.D.

NPR Weekend Edition Sunday gets it right!

Thank you Quil Lawrence for doing the research and getting the story right. The VHA has been subjected to so much mis-information and fake news that veterans and care givers were starting to wonder if anyone was going to get it right.

To our members and supporters, please go to the web page and Tweet, Facebook, Email or Google Plus about this story to your friends and thank NPR for airing it. Weekend Edition Sunday

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