A veterans advocacy group hopes to be the voice of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reform, with a platform where veterans can share experiences of their care in VA hospitals.
Veterans can submit anonymous anecdotes of their experience at MyVAStory.org, a website launched Monday by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a non-profit veteran’s group calling for structural reform of the VA. CVA is collecting stories and hospital experiences from veterans to better understand the extent of issues faced when looking for consistent high-quality, timely health care in the VA network.
“American veterans simply aren’t being heard by DC bureaucrats,” Dan Caldwell, vice president for policy and communications at CVA, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an exclusive interview. “We’re launching his platform as a way to give veterans a voice in Washington.”
As CVA gathers stories from veterans around the country, it will organize the anecdotes by state so that lawmakers can see the way veterans are receiving care within their own districts.
“When politicians hear numbers and they hear a percent, it’s often hard for them to put a human connection to the suffering recurring as a result of the data they’re seeing,” Caldwell told TheDCNF.
CVA has already collected around 500 anecdotes from veterans through letters, comments on the website, and town hall meetings around the country. From those stories, CVA realized there was a need for veterans to lodge complaints outside the traditional channels of the VA system and other veteran groups.
“We do expect, and have heard, a lot of stories at these town halls, many of which are going up on this website, of continued problems of access to care, and timely processing of disability claims and other benefits,” Caldwell said. “Those problems, despite billions of dollars of additional benefits, are still lingering, despite what the VA continues to tell us.”(RELATED: VA Coached Employees On Wait Time Manipulation Answers)
Caldwell hopes to get a better understanding of the disparity among healthcare experiences within the VA system. A few of the example stories are positive and even complimentary to VA hospitals. Though there are certainly good experiences, VA supporters, “take these success stories and they hold them up as examples for the whole system, and that’s not accurate to say,” according to Caldwell.
“Even though there are instances that they provide high quality care, it is too inconsistent,” Caldwell says. “It is too often based on quality of management of the hospital, based on, in some cases, pure luck.”
Some of those stories have already been posted on CVA’s site, including one from a VA hospital manager in California. “I am dealing with a union and supervisors who are preventing me from holding my employees accountable and who are now going to counter my actions,” a man identified as Wayne says in his comment. “There are not enough resources, legal counsel, or anyone else willing to help those fighting for accountability from within.” (RELATED: VA Offers Anti-Corruption Whistleblower $305,000 To Go Away)
All the anecdotes CVA collects will be reviewed to ensure legitimacy, but the veterans will remain anonymous. CVA believes the VA has mistreated whistleblowers, including patients who complain about their experiences. (RELATED: Despite Pledge, VA Secretary Blows Off Whistleblowers)
CVA advocates structural reform of the VA, including creation of the Veterans Health Insurance Program, a system where veterans can visit the hospital of their choice through direct subsidies. Under CVA’s proposal, veteran care will still be taxpayer-funded, but veterans would be able to choose the best hospital for their care. VA hospitals that don’t perform well under this system would ultimately be shut down.
Caldwell anticipates negative reactions from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald and the rest of the agency. “Secretary McDonald, who has a well-documented problem of telling the truth, has routinely defamed and falsely attacked my organization, and misled veterans and the press on what [CVA] actually proposes in terms of VA reform,” Caldwell said. (RELATED: Obama: VA Is Getting Better, So Privatizing It Is Wrong)
“I would not be surprised if they tried to attack and mislead people on this project, based on the VA’s troubled history with the truth.”
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