VA commission divided on privatization proposal

Nearly two years after the beginning of a scandal that rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a panel is considering a proposal that would turn veterans' care over to the private sector.

Last week, seven members of the 15-person VA Commission on Care floated a 34-page preliminary "strawman document" recommending granting all VA beneficiaries immediate access to private care services while gradually closing all VA facilities, beginning with those that are obsolete or little-used, according to the Military Times. The department itself would eventually become a Medicare-like payer entity.

Numerous veterans' groups, however, have denounced the proposal, according to the article, writing in a letter to Commission Chairwoman Nancy Schlichting that not only did the drafting process lack transparency, the proposal demonstrated an "utter lack of consideration that veterans would want to improve and expand the VA healthcare system."

Officials with the American Legion, of the letters' signatories, also suggested there was a conflict of interest among the seven members who issued the proposal, noting that three are from the private sector while a fourth sits on the board of a group that has proposed its own privatization plan for veterans' healthcare.

Meanwhile, the embattled department continues to struggle to effectively discipline its employees and continues to employ people accused of serious misconduct and even crimes.

FierceHealthcarae previously reported that it could take up to a year to fire three executives at the center of the original scandal. Now the Washington Times reports a VA nursing assistant in Alexandria, Louisiana, continues to draw a paycheck while awaiting manslaughter charges.

Meanwhile, an employee in Puerto Rico was fired over armed robbery charges, but was reinstated with back pay after pointing to coworkers who kept their jobs despite being registered sex offenders and being arrested for driving intoxicated.

These reports come in the wake of allegations within the Texas VA system of falsified wait times akin to those that sparked the initial scandal.

To learn more:
- read the Military Times article
- here's the Washington Times article