The Veterans Choice Program was implemented in 2014 with the goal of improving access to health care for Veterans. With the reports of extremely long wait times for care at VA facilities, the program purported to allow veterans to receive care outside the VA medical system if they met one of two criteria: living more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or facing a wait of more than 30 days for VA medical care. In practice, however, it appears that some VA facilities, such as the Oklahoma City VAMC, are ignoring that mandate.
USA Today recently reported on the major failings of the Oklahoma City VAMC.
Dr. Eve Bluestein closed her private medical practice in Colorado and moved to Oklahoma City to help veterans at the VAMC. She immediately noticed that things were amiss and that many of the patients she saw had either been misdiagnosed or had been waiting far too long for care. When she voiced her concerns to her supervisors and told them she planned to investigate, “Oklahoma City VA officials placed her on administrative leave, escorted her out of the building and barred her from returning without a police escort.” After Dr. Bluestein returned to her practice in Colorado, VA officials turned around and began investigating her “for providing inadequate care.”
After pressure and unwanted attention from USA Today, Oklahoma City VA officials say that they are looking into the cases and are having them reviewed by outside experts to determine if any neglect or malpractice occurred. They are also engaged in recruiting additional health care providers to decrease wait times for veterans and relieve the workload of current staff. All of this is of little consolation to the veterans whose conditions worsened drastically due to long waits and/or misdiagnoses, but it is certainly a positive step toward providing better care for our veterans.