A commission created by Congress to improve the service of veterans' hospitals has released a 300-page plan to change the Veterans Affairs Department throughout the next two decades.
The plan, released on July 6, looks at areas where the VA has failed, especially after scandals called into question the quality of care at veterans' hospitals. There have been reports of waits so long patients were dying before getting treated, according to The New York Times. The new plan proposes a partnership between public and private health care providers for the VA.
According to Military times, the commission has recommended that in order to improve the quality and access to care for veterans, treatment should be received through a system of facilities, including VA hospitals and Defense Department facilities. Private, civilian care that has been approved by the VA should also be implemented.
In the new system proposed by the 15-member panel, veterans would select a primary care doctor who has been credentialed by the VA and has received referrals for VA-approved specialty care doctors through their primary health care provider. All veterans eligible for health care through the VA would have access to the system, without the current restrictions.
Under the current Veterans Choice program, access is limited to those who have waited at least 30 days for an appointment with the VA, or who live at least 40 miles from a VA health care provider, according to The Associated Press.
The current program was put into place in 2014, after an investigation revealed that as many as 40 veterans had died while waiting for care at a VA hospital in Phoenix.
"America’s veterans deserve a better organized, high-performing health care system," said the panel's report.
The commission estimated that the potential cost of their plan could range from $65 billion to $85 billion in 2019. The VA's medical budget for the fiscal year of 2017 is $65 billion.
Nearly 1 million veterans who suffer from PTSD would be affected by the plan's proposed changes.
Republican Jeff Miller, who serves as the chairman of the House Veterans Affair Committee, said that the newly released plan "makes it abundantly clear that the problems plaguing Department of Veterans Affairs medical care are severe." He also said that fixing those problems "will require dramatic changes."