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VA Misses Mid-November Deadlines to Improve Veterans Healthcare in Alaska


December 09, 2015
Wednesday AM

(SitNews) Washington, D. C. - At a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing last Wednesday, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) changed his tone and lambasted the Deputy Secretary and the Undersecretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs on the lack of progress on the Alaska Pilot Program for the Veterans Choice Program. After conducting a field hearing and a series of listening sessions throughout Alaska in August – held at the request of Senator Sullivan – the VA announced the pilot program would be fully implemented by mid-November 2015 to help fix the problems Alaska veterans were having with the Choice program.

But since the August announcement, the agreed-upon deadlines for the Alaska Pilot Program have not been met and veterans continue to complain about the implementation of Veterans Choice Program in Alaska.

“When are you going to fix the problem in Alaska like you committed to when you were there in August?” Senator Sullivan asked VA Undersecretary Dr. Shulkin. “On behalf on my veterans I'm pissed…By mid-November, it was all going to be done. It's not done.”

Senator Sullivan continued, “[The VA is] asking for $13-14 billion [from Congress] to fix the Choice Act and can't even fix it in my state where you know it is a freaking disaster… It is a nightmare.”

During the hearing, the VA admitted that they had not met their mid-November deadline, despite agreeing to implement the second and final phase of Alaska’s Pilot Program by that time. According to the VA, no staff has been hired and they have yet to even create job descriptions.

Dr. Shulkin agreed that the program was taking longer than it should to implement.

“It is taking longer than you or I want and you're right to be impatient,” Dr. Shulkin told Senator Sullivan. “I know that the deputy secretary and I have spoken about this. He is committed to it, the secretary [of the VA] is committed to it…You have never deviated from this. We're not deviating from it…I don't want to be giving excuses. I only want to fix the problem in Alaska and we're going to stick at it.”

As a response to the long wait-time scandals at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs facility, the Choice Act was signed into law in 2014.


On the Web:

Summary of Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”)


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan


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