New VA secretary plans more 'purchased care' to relieve backlogs

SAN ANTONIO Fri Jun 6, 2014 5:23pm EDT

Acting U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson speaks with the media after meeting with staff members at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Samantha Sais

Acting U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson speaks with the media after meeting with staff members at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona June 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Samantha Sais

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SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Friday the agency is putting out bids for "purchased care" that would allow veterans to be treated at other hospitals at the VA's expense while cutting backlogs at its facilities.

"In far too many instances, in far too many locations, we have let our veterans down," Sloan Gibson told reporters after a tour of the sprawling Audie Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio. VA hospitals and clinics will be open during non-traditional hours to expand coverage, said Gibson, who was appointed acting secretary of the department on May 30.

U.S. lawmakers engaged in bipartisan talks this week to address delays in the delivery of health care for military veterans. The talks came after former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in late May amid a scandal over widespread schemes to mask care delays and protect staff bonus awards and salary increases.

"We have lost an awful lot of trust, and we have work to do to earn it back," Gibson said. "With veterans, we will do that one veteran at a time."

Gibson said repeatedly that VA managers and administrators who are found to have engaged in what he called "breaches of integrity" will be held accountable.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who had complained to Gibson about improper management at the Audie Murphy hospital, said he was pleased with Gibson's comments during the visit.

"We need swift action and strong resolve to fix the broken system at the VA," Smith said.

In Phoenix, where cover-up schemes first surfaced, doctors said 40 veterans had died while awaiting care.

"I will personally meet with the families of any veterans who died after failing to get care," Gibson said.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Comments (3)
Art16 wrote:
Trust is among the most fragile commodities all organizations, administrations, agencies, and business need to be successful. Once broken, it can be a Herculean task to put it back in one piece that will work. Most Veterans are proud to have honorably served their country. The trust in the VA was a sacred promise to care for Veterans who put their well being and lives on the line fighting for a cause in which they believed for the benefit of their country and other countries in need. That trust was broken by indifference and greed on the part of people who had no feelings for Veterans and only for themselves.

I sincerely hope this effort of the VA with Congressional support really works to quell Veteran’s fears and mistrust and will create a better organization for everyone concerned.

A Vietnam Veteran, and proud of it!

Jun 06, 2014 6:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
It’s a start! Fix the VA now!!!

Jun 06, 2014 7:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Robert76 wrote:
One of the big problems with the VA Medical Care is that they were already at capacity before 11 years of war added significantly to it’s work load. Here is an idea. Farm out the minor care, and focus on the acute treatment that soldiers need by Doctors who specialize in that care.

Also in the future, if we are going to war, maybe we out to beef up the medical care system because war means wounded warriors. Also the immediate care soldiers receive in the field and at Landstuhl Army Hospital means more wounded soldiers do survive, but require extensive care. I have not seen Congress increase the VA’s budget to cover this increase in “business.” Until it does, this problem will repeat itself.

Jun 08, 2014 11:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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