Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Paralyzed Veterans of America Responds to Proposed Veterans Healthcare Reform

Paralyzed Veterans of America issued the following last week:

Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) is voicing its concerns over the report titled “Fixing Veterans Health Care”, released Thursday, February 26, 2015, from Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). While the report does support the continuance of specialized care in the VA health care system for service-connected veterans, Paralyzed Veterans has raised questions about how those specialized services will be sustained once impacted by diminished demand and reduced investment in the support services that maintain them.

“Specialized services, like the spinal cord injury system of care, are multidisciplinary and comprehensive, which means they are inherently defined by their reliance on tertiary services.  An example would be a paralyzed veteran in rehabilitation who needs intensive care or cardiac consultation. While private sector providers are capable of treating chronic conditions that many catastrophically injured veterans will incur over their lifetime, conventional practices are not always appropriate for patients with unique and complex medical needs,” said Homer Townsend Jr., executive director of Paralyzed Veterans. “The question of how we will ensure that non-VA health care adequately delivers specialized care was ignored in the lead-up to the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, and the same question remained unanswered in this report.”

The veterans service organization also notes concerns with the report’s statement that the number of VHA enrollees, while older in age, will shrink.

“Assuming this is true, the report needed to acknowledge that those fewer veterans will live longer and present increasingly complex medical challenges,” stated Lana McKenzie, associate executive director of medical services and health policy for Paralyzed Veterans and a registered nurse.

“We also question the proposal to create a premium support system and fear that it will negatively impact catastrophically disabled veterans assigned to Priority Group 4,” said Townsend. “Even though these veterans are not service connected, caring for them in VA has benefited not only them but also society. These veterans achieve self-sufficiency and stay healthier because the VA offers lifelong, multidisciplinary, comprehensive care that has proven outcomes.”

Paralyzed Veterans of America also joins experts in the private sector who point to the limited experience in treatment of veterans with unique needs related to post-traumatic stress disorder, prosthetics, conditions related to toxic exposure in war zones, or traumatic brain injury. Some providers have openly admitted the private sector is not prepared to provide specialized services for a deluge of patients with complex conditions, such as spinal cord injury and disease.

Richard Umbdenstock, CEO of the American Hospital Association, recently told Congress the private sector will need more time to understand the unique needs of veterans before it can meet demand. Additionally, representatives of major private care providers have voiced concerns to Congress about reimbursement rates while repeatedly refusing to share with Congress their anticipated profit from expanding private care for veterans.

“The report presents several intriguing recommendations that should prompt further discussion and perhaps even more debate. The problems with privatizing VA care are not so obvious to those whose link to VA is limited to receiving outpatient care, filling drug prescriptions and getting flu shots every year,” Townsend said. “But it’s obvious to those of us who have tried private sector alternatives and found them incomparable to VA health care. Our choice is VA, and we want to ensure that it remains a viable choice.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America