Issues Policy Vets is Focusing On
Disability compensation is essential for honoring our commitment to veterans, yet, the current system is often complex, cumbersome, and inefficient. Efforts to reform the approach to disability payments are important to better serve veterans and sustain this system for future generations of service members.
MODERNIZING VA FACILITIES
A large number of VA facilities were build decades ago and are aging. Many veterans have relocated to parts of the country that do not have facilities capable of handling the new demand. VA facilities also require contemporary tools and technologies to better serve veterans. An example of new approaches for addressing these needs is the CHIP IN For Vets Act of 2016. This is a program that encourages public-private partnerships to develop state of the art facilities for veterans. Other programs like this must be introduced to address future needs of the VA.
TRANSPARENCY OF RESULTS AND CLINICAL OUTCOMES
VA's willingness and ability to publicly disclose data in essential for maintaining veteran and community trust. Policies on data sharing and capture are important policy initiatives for veterans affairs committees.
VETERAN ECONOMIC STABILITY AND SUPPORT PROGRAMS
Economic wellbeing is an essential part of a veteran's quality of life. Policies that look at ways to encourage independence and wellbeing are an important mission of VA. Ending veteran homeless is an example of policies and programs that are focused on important goals that are measurable and specific.
Veterans should receive care in the setting where they can obtain the best care. The VA should therefore be competitive with the private sector in terms of quality, service and cost. In order to allow for competition, the VA must be able to operate with the flexibility to compete on a level playing field. Some of the policy issues to allow for this include the ability of VA to provide for care for the veteran's family through an insurance reimbursement model, the ability to get paid for caring for veterans with Medicare (Medicare Subvention), the ability to utilize value based purchasing models, and increased budget flexibility.
VA is large payer of healthcare in the private sector. The ability of VA to provide care coordination and quality oversight is critical to fulfilling its mission. Determining appropriate access standards for care in the community is also an important policy issue to assess.
VA RESEARCH AND DATA SHARING
VA's research programs have made important contributions to veterans and all Americans. Policy work is needed to allow VA researchers to investigate more areas of importance for veterans, and to be able to safely share data with other federal agencies, and where appropriate, with the private sector.
PROSTHETICS MANAGEMENT AND BUDGETING
VA needs greater budget flexibility to meet veterans' needs, and the prosthetics budget is a good example. Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace with many new devices and digital tools coming from the prosthetics budget. The prosthetics budget is one most often strained, causing veterans to wait to have their needs met. Budget flexibility in this area would allow VA to spend funds where they are needed while still maintaining overall fiscal accountability and responsibility.
DIGNIFIED FINAL RESTING PLACES
VA's Memorial Affairs services are nationally recognized as an excellent operation. Maintaining current policies and procedures are important to ensure the respect and dignity that all veterans and their families deserve.
CROSS-AGENCY COOPERATION IN FEDERAL AGENCIES
Many federal agencies beyond VA have important functions when it comes to serving veterans. Most notably Labor, HHS, HUD, and Defense have activities that are essential for veterans. Policies are needed to help facilitate the seamless work that can and should occur across agencies, and eliminate duplicative spending.
HUMAN RESOURCE REFORMS
VA has many vacancies. The hiring and recruitment process is sometime difficult. Examining policies and procedures, streamlining VA's HR operations, and improving recruitment and retention will be essential to the success of VA.
GENDER EQUALITY, DISPARITIES IN CARE, AND FERTILITY ISSUES
Women in the military are one of the fastest growing demographics of those currently serving in uniform. Programs and policies that enhance the experience and care for women veterans needs to me a priority. In addition VA must deliver care to veterans regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, country of origin, or religious beliefs. Policies that promote equality and eliminate disparities in care are important to introduce, implement, monitor, and enforce.
LONG TERM CARE AND HOME CARE
Long term care is a big issue among veterans. Given the current demographics of our veteran population the needs of long term care is expected to grow. Providing more options for care in the home is an important goal for VA and can be supported with well thought out policies and programmatic solutions that can save money while improving outcomes for patients.
Suicide prevention appropriately remains a top priority for VA. Preventing suicide must address veteran's social, economic, and underlying behavioral issues if present. Policy work for improving effective diagnosis and treatment for PTSD, depression, and substance abuse will be critical in this fight.
POPULATION HEALTH APPROACHES TO CARE FOR VETERANS
The VA system of care is capable of implementing population health approaches to care if the systems are there to support these objectives. Disease areas such as hepatitis C, diabetes, wound care, opioid addiction, and cardiovascular disease are examples of system wide approaches of care that can improve outcomes among veterans.
Each military conflict has had its own unique set of toxic exposures affecting veterans who served in contaminated areas. From Agent Orange, to Gulf War Illness, Burn Pits, radioactive exposure, and sick military installations, veterans have waited a long time to get the benefits and care that they have earned. Policy issues that look at how toxic exposures are handled are urgently needed to address the many veterans that still are waiting for services.
TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION IN VA
With much progress made in the past several years, it is often still too difficult to adopt new technology and innovation in the VA system. Policy approaches to using artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, remote monitoring, genomics, and other technologies will be important to ensure future success of VA's mission.
The issues involved in the implementation of the new electronic health record, and the transition away from VistA, are complex. This implementation is not simply a technology project, but more a change management initiative that will have a large and long standing impact on the way care is delivered to veterans. Important policy issues must be addressed to ensure success of this and other core functions of VA that rely just as heavily on technology. The transition to cloud based technologies and issues related to privacy, confidentiality and security are critical for VA to get right.
VA has been a leader in data interoperability with the introduction of the Blue Button program, yet challenges still remain. Obtaining full interoperability with the DoD and private sector providers will be important to eliminating gaps in care for veterans who receive care in other systems.
The military-civilian transition is a complicated and critical time for veterans and their families. Policies that promote a successful preparation and smooth transition are essential to ensuring veteran well being and safety.
MAINTENANCE AND DELIVERY OF BENEFITS
Veterans have earned and are entitled to a range of benefits from education and the G.I. Bill, to rehabilitation support, and even including small business assistance. These are not rewards for serving, rather they are programs designed to level the playing field for veterans who, economically, lag behind their nonveteran peers due to their honorable military service. It is imperative that we safeguard and continue to support these programs by making sure they remain accessible, up-to-date, and support economic equality and competitiveness.