(U.S. Senate) – During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing yesterday examining veterans’ access to timely health care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and in the community, Chairman Jon Tester called for transparency on community care wait times and a requirement the private sector meet the same timeliness and quality standards as VA.
“I want to make sure we are continuing to emphasize that veterans deserve top-notch care whether they are seen in VA or the private sector—and the Department is accountable for making sure that’s exactly what they receive,” Tester said in his opening statement. “Private sector providers who treat veterans in the community should have to meet the same wait time rules as VA. It makes no sense to develop access standards VA is required to meet and then give veterans the option for community care where they may wait longer than if they had stayed with VA.”
“The bottom line is, veterans deserve to know how long they can expect to wait for health care in VA and in the private sector,” Tester added.
The Committee heard from VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the Disabled American Veterans, the RAND Corporation, and a former senior advisor at VA under the Trump Administration. During the second panel, Tester questioned Dr. Carrie Farmer, the Co-Director of the Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute and Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation, on VA’s ability to compare in-house and community care wait times.
“VA is the only medical system in the country that reports wait times—and it does so daily and at the facility level,” Tester continued. “Your comparison using the Merritt Hawkins survey data is the sort of information veterans should be presented with when making choices about where they need to get care. So what should VA keep in mind if it moves forward with comparing in-house and community care timeliness numbers so veterans would know?”
“First, there’s just no data on the timeliness of community care,” replied Dr. Farmer. “So I really encourage VA to identify how that might be possible to publically report the data in the same way that the data is currently available for care delivered by VA facilities.”