The VA healthcare system has been under fire over the last few years – and rightfully so. There has been a serious effort at the VA to improve their dire situation, but it is worth asking about their success.
VA By the Numbers
Looking at the numbers, the VA should be on the road to massive improvements. Since 2009, their budget as increased by 83.2 billion dollars (93.7 billion vs. 176.9 billion) and their workforce has increased by 277,000 (a full 1/3 of which are veterans), while enrollment has only gone up by 1.2 million (7.8 million vs. 9 million).
But we all know that just throwing money at a problem won’t make it go away. So, there’s more to the picture than just funding and employment numbers – but it certainly looks like they’re on the right path.
The VA has also made a concerted effort to increase the transparency of the organization. Toward that end, they have created a website that shows quality and wait-time data on VA hospitals at accesstocare.va.gov and has created a dedicated hotline for complaints and concerns.
While this might just be a PR move to help repair their damaged reputation, it appears that the VA is serious about improving the quality of care it offers to our nation’s veterans.
A Work in Progress
Recently, VA Secretary David Shulkin outlined several areas where the administration still needed to improve.
- Wait Times – this has been the focus of much of the recent VA controversy, and so the administration is making reducing wait times its number one priority – and making that data public through the accesstocare.va.gov website.
- Paying Providers – The VA has a huge problem with paying third-party providers, and that needs to be dealt with as they look to include more non-VA providers in an effort to reduce wait times.
- Quality of Care – At the bottom, the VA needs to be providing quality care. They have made improvements here, but there is always room to be better.
- IT Needs – Modern hospitals rely on technology for both care and administration. The VA is working with some seriously outdated technology.
- Building Needs – Maintaining the VA’s 168 medical centers and 1,053 outpatient locations is a big task, and they have been putting it off for years.
- Bureaucratic Reductions – The VA has become severely bloated over the years. Thankfully, Shulkin has realized the problem and has instituted a hiring freeze on the bureaucratic level.
- Waste and Abuse – Like almost all government organizations, the VA has been plagued with waste, abuse, and fraud. They hope that the increased transparency will help to restore the public’s trust.
The VA is a vital part of caring for our nation’s veterans. They do very important work, but that’s why we hold them to such a high standard. Given their improvement over the last four years are encouraging and we hope that the trend continues over the next decade.