The VA is aggressively hiring physicians and significantly increasing referrals of veterans to private docs.
That’s the word from the new chief of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Robert McDonald, who reported that the VA has made more than 838,000 referrals in the past two months. That’s an increase of over 166,000 referrals, or about 25 percent, from the same period last year, according to the Associated Press.
“Until we get systems up to capacity, we’re expanding our use of private care and other non-VA health care to improve access for veterans experiencing excessive wait times,” McDonald said.
The Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, approved by Congress in July, provides $10 billion to pay for veterans to get their healthcare through providers outside of the V.A. if timely care is unavailable. The legislation also provides $5 billion for the V.A. to hire more doctors and nurses.
McDonald, who spoke Wednesday at the American Veterans national convention, said changes are needed to the current system of hiring, which he referred to as laborious, complicated and time consuming. “I’m going to be out there recruiting these people, and I would like your help,” he said. “If you have any names, please send them to me.”
Two weeks ago, three VA doctors wrote in JAMA their recommendations for improving care to veterans including greater access to care and better hiring practices. They also said that hiring physicians is different than hiring providers. “Although advocated by some, hiring nurse practitioners and physician assistants to replace primary care physicians may be an unwise strategy,” said the VA doctors. “This is not the time to test unproven and controversial solutions.”
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