Tags: veterans | transplants | healthcare

New Law Provides Better Care to Veterans Seeking Transplants

New Law Provides Better Care to Veterans Seeking Transplants
President Donald Trump holds up the Veterans Affairs Mission Act he signed during a ceremony with members of Congress and veterans in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 6, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Friday, 03 August 2018 03:51 PM Current | Bio | Archive

President Trump recently signed the VA Mission Act into law, at a White House ceremony conducted in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office. I had the privilege to attend, along with a select group of veteran advocates that worked on the bill as it made its way through Congress.

The bill consolidates Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare mechanisms and simplifies the process by which veterans may more easily access private doctors — at expense to VA — in the frequent event medical center wait times are backlogged and their care is significantly delayed. One key provision of this bill that was not widely reported on — but important — was pushed by Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and improves access to transplant services for veterans.

It’s been reported how difficult it is for veterans to access private transplant care through VA despite existing legal authorities that would allow it. Bureaucratic difficulty within VA has hindered all veterans but especially veterans seeking timely organ transplants. As the debate for allowing reasonable access to private care has in some ways already been won (allowing more private care), that freedom to choose private care may now extend to organ transplants as well.

The VA has historically refused to allow veterans access to community transplant care, despite the current CHOICE program. Often, veterans have no choice but to go to one of the 13 VA transplant centers (VATCs) located across the country, none of which cover all of the transplant services covered by VA. Until this new provision supported by Senator Cassidy, veterans have effectively been prohibited from accessing local non-VA transplant facilities, even when care at a VATC is not in the best interest of a veteran.

Reports from the government-funded Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients show that some VATCs are performing far fewer transplants annually compared to many non-VA facilities. Research indicates that a higher volume of performed transplants is associated with improved outcomes. Considering the VA’s problems with wait times and care quality, it is time for the Department to allow veterans to receive organ transplants in the best available manner for the patient.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) identified several deficiencies in the VA’s response to allegations made by a whistleblower within the VA transplant program, and concluded that the VA did not fully address significant barriers to quality care. These barriers included a low rate of living donor transplants performed at VATCs, delays in care experienced by veterans when VATCs applied overly restrictive acceptance criteria, and physicians in charge of post-transplant care who were concerned they did not have the level of specialty required to provide proper care.

This is not an acceptable pathway for the VA to continue pursuing, and a veteran in Louisiana, for example, should not have to travel far from home in order to receive transplant services when they could receive better care right in their own community.

As a doctor, Senator Cassidy knows the importance of veterans being able to access quality transplant care close to home. The provision he advocated for will provide greater access to community care, and that’s a good start. Hopefully the VA can continue to work with the congressional veterans committees and the White House to make sure veterans that need organ transplants can secure these services in the most efficient, effective, and least onerous way possible.

The VA Mission Act was a great step forward for veterans’ health care, and the Cassidy-backed provision will aid in improving veterans transplant care. VA leadership should provide immediate notice to this provision of the law, and get this program right for our great veterans to make sure they receive the best care our nation can provide.

Christopher Neiweem is the Founder of Neiweem Group, an Iraq War Veteran, and Political Strategist. He has testified in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as an expert witness numerous times in front many congressional committees. These topics range from defense, veterans, commerce, education, and military personnel. He regularly appears on Fox News Channel and other news shows as a guest commentator and has worked on several political campaigns. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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President Trump recently signed the VA Mission Act into law, at a White House ceremony conducted in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office.
veterans, transplants, healthcare
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2018-51-03
Friday, 03 August 2018 03:51 PM
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