VA Medical Centers May be in Jeopardy According to Proposed Plan
Recent announcements have indicated that the Department of Veterans Affairs could close or reconstruct over 30 VA Medical Centers across the United States. At least 17 would be completely shuttered, three of which are in New York.
Recommendations for change stem from a congressional mandate in 2018 for the VA to assess its infrastructure across the country. The driving factor behind some decisions relates to declines in the number of veterans and the population in specific regions. VA Secretary Denis McDonough confirmed this by stating, “We will be shifting toward new infrastructure or different infrastructure that accounts for how healthcare has changed, matches the needs of that market, and strengthens our research and education missions.”
Several hospitals slated for closure would be replaced with new urgent care centers and inpatient or outpatient clinics managed by non-VA providers. Or veterans would be directed to regular community medical offices.
Proponents of the plan believe that the changes will improve veterans’ care. However, it has been met with fierce opposition by politicians, veterans, and employees at several affected locations. Those speaking out against the VA’s decisions include Senator Chuck Schumer. He has specifically expressed his disapproval of the closure of NYC area facilities, given the large number of veterans residing within the five boroughs.
One of the main concerns relates to the inability of new providers to understand what veterans have been through or how to treat ailments resulting from any type of exposure during military service.
Those concerned about moving from VA-trained personnel to community caregivers suggest that sufficient training and establishing trust are necessary. Without knowing military culture or the challenges that veterans face, providers may not have the ability to meet their patients’ needs adequately.
“We’re trying to get the civilian health care community more efficient and more capable of caring for veterans,” said Larry Cervelli of the Western Massachusetts Veterans Outreach Project in response to the news of a Massachusetts VA hospital flagged for closure.
It is commendable that the need to assimilate providers has already been identified. Unfortunately, U.S. Government Accountability Office findings state that community providers may lack the resources to accommodate an abundance of patients from VA Medical Centers due to miscalculations by the VA.
While the restructuring may appear to be moving forward immediately, the recommendations must undergo several levels of review and approval before anything proceeds, which could be years away. Visit the VA website to read more about the entire plan.
As noted, everything will remain status quo, at least for now. But policies barring veterans from getting the help they need already exist. Our New York disability lawyers are here to assist with any questions regarding veterans disability benefits.
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