Four-hour drive for a colonoscopy? What VA privatization warnings ignore

WASHINGTON — When 55-year-old Coast Guard veteran David McCray needed a colonoscopy, the Department of Veterans Affairs told him he would certainly have to drive two hours each way coming from his home to a VA hospital in Denver — even though multiple private-sector options are closer, as will be an Air Force hospital.

He said the VA told him he and also also also his wife could drive to the Denver VA from the evening, stay from the emergency room overnight, then he could get the test the following morning and also also also his wife could drive him home afterward.

“I’m like, are you kidding me? This kind of doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

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So McCray called up Sen. Michael Bennet’s office the 1st time This kind of happened in 2012 and also also also the second time in 2016. Both times, the Colorado Democrat intervened, and also also also the VA allowed McCray instead to go to the Air Force facility 45 minutes coming from his home.

His case — the fact in which a veteran would certainly need a U.S. senator to get workable colonoscopy appointments — helps illustrate the realities of what veterans face as the VA struggles to meet the needs of some 9 million among their ranks and also also also as a heated political battle unfolds in Washington over the agency’s future.

President Trump said he fired David Shulkin as VA secretary because he wasn’t moving quickly enough to ensure veterans have more flexibility to get VA-sponsored care from the private sector. Shulkin equated the administration’s stance as a push toward “privatization,” a “political issue aimed at rewarding select people and also also also companies with profits, even if This kind of undermines care for veterans.”

The issue will be today central to the confirmation of Trump’s pick to take over the agency, White House physician and also also also Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has already circulated a petition to supporters calling on his Senate colleagues to oppose the nomination unless Jackson pledges to reject the “moral abomination” of privatizing VA health care. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he expects such a pledge and also also also lambasted any “effort to use America’s veterans to line the pockets of wealthy corporations.”

yet such rhetoric glosses over the predicament currently facing the VA — and also also also the veterans like McCray who depend on the agency for health care.

More than 700,000 veterans still are waiting longer than a month for medical appointments. The agency hasn’t been able to hire and also also also retain enough medical workers to treat them — some 35,000 positions remain open.

Many VA facilities are more than 50 years old and also also also collectively need billions of dollars in repairs and also also also upgrades. The bureaucracy has ballooned. Seven different programs, all with their own regulations, govern veterans’ ability to get private sector care. One of them, the so-called Choice program, will run out of money in several weeks.

Congress has been considering a bipartisan solution — investing money from the existing VA while also giving veterans options to go to private doctors when the VA can’t meet their needs. This kind of would certainly smooth out the rules and also also also combine the private care programs into one.

and also also also This kind of would certainly include an asset review to determine which VA medical facilities are worth repairing, where fresh ones might be needed and also also also where others might be shuttered and also also also private-sector care provided.

This kind of had been poised to pass as part of the spending bill Trump signed into law last month. yet House Democrats balked, and also also also without their support, This kind of was dropped coming from the bipartisan bill and also also also the legislation remains stuck.

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