Tags: VA Scandal | veterans | affairs | house | committee | holding | back

House Committee Slams VA for Not Releasing Health Data

By    |   Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 10:56 PM

The Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire Wednesday for holding back information crucial to overseeing its ailing health care system.

The criticism came at a hearing of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health to discuss the cost and quality of VA care compared with the private sector, Stars and Stripes reports.

But an official with the Congressional Budget Office, which provides independent analysis for Congress, told lawmakers the VA had refused to hand over even basic information for a report released in December.

"Additional data, particularly if it was provided on a regular and systematic basis, could help inform policymakers about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of VHA’s services," Matthew Goldberg, the Congressional Budget Office deputy assistant director for national security, told the subcommittee, Stars and Stripes reports.

Lawmakers were livid.

"Unfortunately, it became painfully apparent to me last year that the Veterans Health Administration, which operates the VA health care system, was either unable or unwilling to provide basic information about the services it provides," Michigan Republican Rep. Dan Benishek complained.

"VA’s lack of transparency is echoed in the disappointing testimony — absent substance or detail — that VA provided for this morning’s hearing."

Others questioned the VA's commitment to reform in the wake of a delayed care scandal last year that revealed some medical centers had created secret patient wait-lists to make it look like ailing vets were getting care faster than they actually did.

The scandal cost former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki his job, but his replacement, Bob McDonald, has been getting pressure from lawmakers as well.

"The new secretary is not changing the culture as far as I can see," Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman said.

Dr. James Tuchschmidt, the VA’s acting deputy undersecretary for health, promised to work with Congress on releasing more data, though he didn't specify what, Stars and Stripes reports.

"You have my commitment today to sit down with my staff and figure out what kind of data you need," he said, the newspaper reports.

VA's $57 billion medical budget provides funding to care for nearly 9.3 million of the
nation's 22 million veterans, Military Times reports.

Last year, Congress passed a massive veterans bill adding $17 billion to that amount
to reduce wait times and improve veterans' access to health care.

"I worked at VA for 20 years off and on," Benishek said, Military Times reports.

"I realize that VA provides care that can't be duplicated in the private sector. But we
need to have some idea for the total money we are spending at VA to provide care for
veterans."

California Rep. Julie Brownley, the highest ranking Democrat on the subcommittee,
agreed transparency is needed, but warned comparing costs to the private sector
would be difficult.

"I think we should focus on improving access to veterans health care, ensuring that
veterans receive the best care possible, and continue to hold important oversight
hearings on the quality and safety of the care provided to veterans," she said.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire Wednesday for holding back information crucial to overseeing its ailing health care system.
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2015-56-28
Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 10:56 PM
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