In an Administration unafraid to fire key cabinet members with little warning, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Dr. David Shulkin, is rumored to be high on President Donald Trump’s list of next in line. The cause of this disdain by the President? A VA inspector general report stated that Secretary Shulkin used taxpayer money to fund airfare so that his wife could join him on a trip to Europe. Since the revelation, Shulkin has publicly apologized and has repaid the taxpayer money. This firing can be viewed as an effort to fulfill campaign promises of change at the VA.
Now that we know the background information, how would Shulkin’s firing impact Veterans and their ability to receive health care?
The main potential change that may take place now that Shulkin is being replaced is how the VA handles privatization and doling out of health care partnerships with the private sector. The majority of Veterans and advocates for Veterans agree that privatizing care is a net positive. Secretary Shulkin also agrees with this point of view. However, the Veterans Choice Program, the federal program that funds these private care facilities, is not paying them in a timely manner. As a result, many of these caregivers are refusing to see Veterans under this program. Shulkin is of the mind that selective privatization is a good thing, but he draws the line at complete privatization of veteran health care, saying it would be a “disaster.”
This is likely where a new VA Secretary appointee would differ. Pete Hegseth, co-host of the political-themed morning show “Fox and Friends,” was being considered by Trump as a replacement for Shulkin, as reported by the Washington Post. Hegseth favors a more aggressive privatization strategy. An increase in the privatization of health care for Veterans could mean Veterans would have to change their primary care physician, even if they have seen the same doctor since enrolling in the program. Always present in the privatization conversation is the likely increase in costs which could either be passed on to Veterans themselves or taxpayers. Also, a recent study found that the quality of mental health care provided by the VA is superior to that of the private sector by more than 30%. However, Mr. Hegseth didn’t get the job. It went to Admiral Ronny Jackson.
WHAT COULD WE HAVE EXPECTED IF SHULKIN STAYED
Shulkin believes that removing him and replacing him with a more conservative individual would put Veterans’ health care at risk of being privatized too quickly and without the proper institutional guidelines in place to ensure quality health care was being given and paid for. He says that he wants Veterans to have more choices and reduce the level of bureaucracy at the VA. This would require operational experience at many different levels of organization and a multiyear commitment, which Shulkin believes cannot be achieved if he is not allowed to hold his cabinet seat.
Shulkin also wants to overhaul the way private care providers are paid for their services to Veterans. Currently, there are seven different ways that the VA pays for private care, which often leads to confusion and bills being lost or delayed. He wants to consolidate these seven payment methods into one, which presumably would allow private care providers to be paid more quickly.
Improving the health care and well-being of Veterans is integral to the mission of the VA, and it is important to understand the pros and cons of how this mission is carried out. If you have any questions about something you have read, or would like to learn more, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
With the new Secretary, there is a lot unknown. Historically, those serving in the position as VA Secretary haven’t done well. They have neither received praise from veterans nor have they been able to change the toxic and inefficient system that is the Veteran’s Administration.
Contact other Euless, Texas Elder Law Attorney and Veterans Attorney, Antoinette Bone, at (817) 462-5454 or email [email protected] today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.
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