Study: New York providers aren't prepared to care for veterans

Veterans affairs sign
Although 90% of providers said they could accept new patients, those who could appropriately care for veterans dropped off precipitously. (JeffOnWire/CC BY 2.0)

One of the most populous states in the union is almost manifestly incapable of caring for veterans, according to a new study by RAND Corp.

In New York State, with a population of nearly 20 million and home to the most populous city in the nation, only 2% of civilian physicians and other medical providers are capable of providing quality care in a timely manner, the study concluded.

The report, which surveyed 746 providers across the state of New York, focused on seven specific measures of readiness, including screening for conditions that are commonplace among veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and familiarity with the military culture. The providers were also polled as to whether they screened patients for their affiliations as a military veteran.

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Although 90% said they could accept new patients, those who could appropriately care for veterans dropped off precipitously. For example, only about 20% of New York–licensed healthcare professionals said they screened patients to determine if they had ever served in the military.

“As a result, many providers are missing an opportunity to begin a conversation about how having a military history and background might have contributed to their veteran patients' current medical condition. Providers are also missing an opportunity to understand how military culture could shape veterans' preferences and attitudes about treatment,” the study concluded.

The findings reveal "significant gaps and variations in the readiness of community-based healthcare providers to provide high-quality care to veterans,” said Terri Tanielian, the study's lead author and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, in an announcement about the findings. “It appears that more work needs to be done to prepare the civilian healthcare workforce to care for the unique needs of veterans.”

New York has the fifth largest veteran community of any state, and is fourth among states in overall spending for healthcare for veterans, at $6.3 billion per year.

RELATED: National Academies report: VA provides high-quality mental health services, but it has an access problem

The VA program is already under criticism nationwide for the care it is providing for veterans, particularly mental health services. About half of veterans who need these services go to non-VA providers for treatment. But the RAND study suggests they may face similar issues outside of the system.

RELATED: Oregon VA hospital administrators cherry-pick patients to improve quality metrics, clinicians say 

And in January, it was disclosed that a VA facility in Oregon was cherry-picking patients in order to boost its care quality scores.

The RAND study recommended that providers improve their screening practices in order to more easily identify veterans and familiarize themselves with military culture.

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