News

Report: VA needs $17.6B to clear wait times

Report: VA needs $17.6B to clear wait times

VETERANS AFFAIRS: Veterans Affairs acting Secretary Sloan Gibson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 16, before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on the state of VA health care in the wake of revelations of neglect and delayed medical visits. He is accompanied by Assistant Deputy Undersecretary For Health For Administrative Operations Philip Matkowsky. Photo: Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs $17.6 billion in additional funding over the next three years to eliminate long waiting times for veterans’ healthcare appointments, the embattled agency’s acting chief said on Wednesday.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told senators that without additional resources to buy private care and increase internal capacity, “the wait times just get longer” as more veterans return from wars, get older and turn to VA for healthcare.

Gibson told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the $17.6 billion request would only last through the 2017 fiscal year. About $10 billion of the total would be needed to purchase private care for veterans and hire about 10,000 additional clinical staff, including about 1,500 physicians.

But to keep ahead of the rising population of veterans needing VA care, even more money will be needed in the future, Gibson said.

“These funds represent only the current shortfalls in clinical staff, space, information technology and purchased care necessary to provide timely, high-quality care,” Gibson said.

The VA has been rocked by scandal in the past three months over systematic cover-ups of months-long waiting times for medical appointments at its clinics and hospitals across the country. In Phoenix, doctors have alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names languished on secret waiting lists while officials misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus compensation.

The controversy caused retired Army General Eric Shinseki to resign as VA secretary in late May. President Barack Obama appointed Gibson, a former banker who joined the VA in February, to run the department temporarily.

Obama has since nominated Bob McDonald, the former chief executive of consumer products giant Procter and Gamble Co, to be secretary. McDonald will face the Senate veterans panel next week in a confirmation hearing.

Gibson said he had been working with the White House budget office to develop the funding request.

Both the House and Senate have passed legislation aimed at speeding care to veterans, allowing them to see private doctors for two years at VA expense if forced to endure long waits. But lawmakers are reeling from sticker shock after the Congressional Budget Office pegged the cost at $35 billion over 10 years.

The number Gibson gave to senators was significantly lower and would be more geared to purchasing private care in the near term. Later in the 2014-2017 period, the VA would rely more on expanding its own internal capacity.

He said that VA would likely be more efficient at caring for veterans, who tend to be “older, sicker and poorer” than the general population.

About $6 billion of the $17.6 billion request would cover construction of new clinics and other facilities, which would open up about 8 million new appointment slots per year, Gibson said.

The VA operates the largest U.S. healthcare system, providing healthcare to nearly 9 million U.S. veterans at some 1,700 facilities, including 150 hospitals and 820 outpatient clinics.

(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Angelina Jolie crowned world’s top feminist icon

Fresh
Angelina Jolie arrives at the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson top the list of the world's foremost feminist icons.

in Entertainment, National

Celebrities protest new Indiana law

Fresh
George Takei poses for a portrait at Quaker Good Energy Lodge with GenArt and the Collective , during the Sundance Film Festival, on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 in Park City, Utah.

Celebrities call for an Indiana boycott after the passing of a controversial law that could lead to discrimination against gay couples.

in Lifestyle

White House unveils plan to fight antibiotic-resistant germs

Fresh
The North Lawn of the White House, on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 in Washington.

The White House announce a five-year plan to fight drug-resistant germs.

in National

Senate’s Harry Reid will not seek re-election

Fresh
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. adjusts his glasses as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, following a policy luncheon. Reid is wearing special glasses as part of his recovery from injuries suffered in an exercise accident in January.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says that it would be "inappropriate" for him to seek re-election.

in Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘It Follows’ is the best American horror film in a decade

In this image released by Brigade Marketing, actress Maika Monroe appears in a scene of It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell. “It Follows,” has been arguably the buzziest American film at Cannes next to Bennett Miller’s wrestling drama “Foxcatcher,” which boasts a far more famous cast and a major premiere at the Palais des Festival.

"It Follows" is a horror movie worthy of classic comparisons.