VA Hospitals Facing Possible Privatization and FBI Criminal Investigation
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) John Chasen drives 60 miles to a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Rome, Ga. from his residence in Chatsworth every three months to get blood work. Although there are doctors at the Rome clinic, Chasen is also driving to a Nashville, Tenn. VA facility to see a physician's assistant who issues prescriptions .
"I haven't seen a doctor in five years," Chasen told MainStreet. "All I see is nurse practitioners. I don't understand how a nurse would know more than a doctor. That doesn't make sense."
"I am on Medicare and have Medicare supplement so outside doctors don't cost me a dime, but the VA doesn't honor prescriptions from outside doctors," said the Air Force veteran.
Chasen is among the thousands of veterans who remain challenged by red tape at VA hospitals across the country in light of CNN's ground breaking investigation that revealed veterans are dying as a result of delayed medical care and secret lists. In May, President Obama announced that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski would resign, which has calmed the political storm but has not yet caused change for all veterans like Chasen or my father, James Fairley.
"The former VA head had the best intentions, but the bureaucratic problem of underperformance was too much for him to change alone," said Dr. Michael Murphy, former VA physician and co-founder of ScribeAmerica in Aventura, Fla. "The VA is in need of serious restructuring by starting over or privatizing the existing VA Hospitals to be run by a nationally recognized systems."
A claim with the VA Office of Inspector General about my father's 30-pound weight loss, nagging cough and distended stomach was referred back to the patient advocacy office at the VA Audie Murphy Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, which has done nothing to assist.
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"The Inspector General's role is limited in scope and that's why you have Congressmen, such as Senator Blumenthal in Connecticut, discussing an FBI investigation, which would carry criminal consequences," said Art Terrazas, director of government affairs at the American Counseling Association (ACA) in Washington, D.C.
Shineski's replacement nominee Bob McDonald vowed that he would take quick action to change the health care system to better serve the nation's 22 million veterans. Just this month, the former Proctor & Gamble CEO won unanimous backing from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. But whether that change will happen fast enough to save the lives of veterans who are waiting to see a doctor remains to be seen.