September 23, 2014

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
It has been well over a year since I filed my notice of disagreement with the VA over my TBI and I have yet to hear anything at all from them. I was wondering if you could find time to check on it for me. Thanks and keep up the good fight.

Ken C
Via the internet

Dear Ken,
I have referred your inquiry regarding your VA claim to the powers that be at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I hope this helps.

Shaft Notes
 The VA Office of Inspector General officials recently confirmed that delays in VA medical care did contribute to veteran deaths and the fact that the possibility that delays caused deaths couldn’t be ruled out, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement:

“The confirmation from IG officials today that delays in VA medical care contributed to the deaths of Phoenix-area veterans and IG officials’ admission that they couldn’t rule out the possibility that delays caused deaths changes the entire bottom line of the IG’s Phoenix report. Absent these qualifying statements, the OIG’s previous assertions that it could not ‘conclusively assert’ that delays caused deaths are completely misleading. It’s absolutely inexplicable and outrageous that the IG’s Phoenix report failed to clearly make these distinctions. While I am pleased IG officials finally cleared up these glaring inconsistencies, I regret that they only did so several weeks after the release of the Phoenix report and after hours of intense questioning. Getting the whole story out of inspectors general should not be this difficult.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that Veterans will be provided with greater access to quality health care. Patient-Centered Community Care (PCCC) contracts have been modified to include primary care:

VA Medical Centers will have the ability to purchase non-VA medical care for Veterans through contracted medical providers when they cannot readily provide the needed care due to geographic inaccessibility or limited capacity. Eligible Veterans will have access to primary care, inpatient specialty care, outpatient specialty care, mental health care, limited emergency care, and limited newborn care for female Veterans following the birth of a child. The addition of primary care services to PCCC enables VA to ensure that all types of care can be purchased through existing contracts and ensure appointment scheduling within 5 days and Veterans seen within 30 days.

Among the many benefits to the Veterans and VA under these contracts, VA will enjoy standardized health care quality metrics, timely return of medical documentation, and cost avoidance with fixed rates for services across the board, guaranteed access to care, and enhanced tracking and reporting of non-VA health care expenditures.

Veterans will have access to primary care in the community when the VAMC is unable to provide it locally within a timely manner. The contract provides reduced commuting standards that require scheduled appointments closer to the Veterans’ homes.

  • Urban – within 30 minutes maximum commute time
  • Rural – within 45 minutes maximum commute time
  • Highly rural – within 60 minutes maximum commute time

Recently passed bills:

  • H.R. 3593, as amended, (Introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman) would direct the inclusion of an outside entity – the Army Corps of Engineers – to assist in the management of VA’s major facility construction efforts.
  • H.R. 5404, as amended, (Introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham) would extend a number of expiring current authorities and critical programs at both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor.
  • H.R. 4276, as amended, (Introduced by Rep. Bill Cassidy) would require VA to provide reports to Congress on the pilot program for assisted living services for veterans with traumatic brain injury.
  • S. 2258, (Introduced by Senator Mark Begich) would authorize a cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other compensation for survivors of veterans who have died as a result of their service to our country.

H.R. 3593, 5404, 4276, now await consideration by the Senate, and S. 2258 will be sent to the president to be signed into law. Chairman Miller released the below statement:

“Congress has once again found common ground in support of our Nation’s heroes. If signed into law, these four bills would have a lasting impact on the way VA operates and on the lives of many veterans. I am especially proud of passage of the urgently needed VA Construction Assistance Act. It is no secret that VA has a horrible track record in managing major construction projects. VA construction projects are routinely completed years late and millions over budget, while VA construction officials escape accountability at every turn. Congressman Coffman’s legislation will add a crucial level of oversight for VA in completing major construction projects, helping ensure both veterans and taxpayers are better served. I thank my Senate colleagues for their work on S. 2258, and I urge them to quickly pass H.R. 3593, H.R. 5404, and H.R. 4276.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will publish a notification in the Federal Register which increases the maximum rates of annual pay for in-coming Veterans Health Administration (VHA) physicians and dentists as part of VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s nation-wide recruitment initiative to hire more clinicians and expand Veterans’ access to care.

“At VA, we have a noble and inspiring mission – to serve Veterans, their survivors and dependents. There is no higher calling,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “We are committed to hiring more medical professionals across the country to better serve Veterans and expand their access to timely, high-quality care.”

The updated pay tables propose an increase in pay of $20,000 to $35,000 annually for physicians and dentists who are providing care for Veterans. There will be no change to the pay tables for physicians who serve in leadership roles.

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