Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) plan to extend health benefits to veterans living in rural areas of the country received mostly negative reviews on Saturday from veterans attending the Disabled Veterans of America convention in Nevada.
According to the Las Vegas Sun:
Just one of 14 veterans interviewed by the Sun after his speech said he is a certain McCain voter, and the nonpartisan group’s legislative director expressed concerns about McCain’s proposed “Veterans’ Care Access Card.”
Indeed, prominent veterans organizations oppose McCain’s proposal to “give veterans the option to use a simple plastic card to receive timely and accessible care” outside of the VA system.
AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars all argue that while veterans should have access to private care, providing “rural veterans greater access to VA-sponsored care exclusively through private providers” may undermine the VA:
- “The VA’s specialized health-care programs…would suffer irreparable impact by the loss of veterans from those programs.”
- “The VA’s medical and prosthetic research program…would lose focus and purpose were service-connected and other enrolled veterans no longer present in VA health care.”
- If veterans turned to private practice, “they would lose the many safeguards built into the VA system through its patient safety program, evidence-based medicine, electronic medical records and bar code medication administration,” resulting in “lower quality of care for those who deserve it most.”
Currently, the VA “outpaces other systems in delivering patient care.” A recent study by the RAND corporation found that “VA patients were more likely to receive recommended care” and “received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow up”:
Rather than taking veterans out of a system that consistently delivers “higher quality of care,” McCain should expand its services and improve access. As the RAND study concludes, “if other health care providers followed the VA’s lead, it would be a major step toward improving the quality of care across the U.S. health care system.”