VA still struggling a year after Veteran's Affairs Choice Act

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One Year After Reforms, The VA Is Still Struggling


It's been a year since the Choice Act was passed to decrease wait times for veterans in need of medical care. But the VA is still struggling with efficiency at some facilities.

"I don't know of an issue more serious than this ... as to how we treat those who have been willing to go out and serve and sacrifice on behalf of their nation," said Arizona Senator John McCain.

The legislation came after Dr. Sam Foote at the Phoenix VA facility revealed long wait times had led to the deaths of hundreds of veterans.

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VA still struggling a year after Veteran's Affairs Choice Act
US President Barack Obama signs H.R. 3236 Ð the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on July 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Verterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald holds a chart as he testifies about pending Veteran Affairs health care budget shortfall and system shutdown at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., walks past Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald after a brief chat prior to the Committee's hearing the pending Veterans Affairs health care budget shortfall, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Verterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, left, and Jame Tuchschmidt, M.D., acting principal deputy under secretary for health, Veteran Affairs Administration, wait to testify about pending Veteran Affairs health care budget shortfall and system shutdown at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
US Senator John McCain (C), Republican of Arizona, attends a briefing with US President Barack Obama on US military veterans healthcare at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, March 13, 2015. The government announced a new advisory committee of private sector, non-profit and government leaders to improve the VA's ability to improve care for veterans from the Phoenix VA that was at the center of scandal last year regarding the health care of US military veterans. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks following a briefing on US military veterans healthcare at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, March 13, 2015. The government announced a new advisory committee of private sector, non-profit and government leaders to improve the VA's ability to improve care for veterans from the Phoenix VA that was at the center of scandal last year regarding the health care of US military veterans. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald (L) following a briefing on US military veterans healthcare at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, March 13, 2015. The government announced a new advisory committee of private sector, non-profit and government leaders to improve the VA's ability to improve care for veterans from the Phoenix VA that was at the center of scandal last year regarding the health care of US military veterans. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald (L) following a briefing on US military veterans healthcare at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, March 13, 2015. The government announced a new advisory committee of private sector, non-profit and government leaders to improve the VA's ability to improve care for veterans from the Phoenix VA that was at the center of scandal last year regarding the health care of US military veterans. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks following a briefing on US military veterans healthcare at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, March 13, 2015. The government announced a new advisory committee of private sector, non-profit and government leaders to improve the VA's ability to improve care for veterans from the Phoenix VA that was at the center of scandal last year regarding the health care of US military veterans. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
National totals for delayed appointments at VA Clinics; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, questions Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald about pending Veteran Affairs health care budget shortfall and system shutdown during a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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But the law still hasn't made a dramatic impact on those wait times. Government data from the past year reveals wait times at VA facilities have mostly remained static, with the worst waits found in the south or southwest region.

To counteract its issues, thousands of employees were hired at the end of 2014 by the VA system, helping facilities increase the veterans they can see.

The VA's rapid growth and regional inequalities in care are proving challenging for the department.

The agency is still being criticized. Just last month a whistleblower reported additional thousands of veterans lost benefits due to mishandling of applications at a VA in Atlanta.

The agency's budget was the subject of a brief legislative scrap earlier this year, during which lawmakers almost refused to fund the agency over complaints about its management and budget.

And Republicans are still pushing for veterans healthcare to move out of the VA and into the private sector. Senator McCain recently introduced new legislation which would make every veteran eligible for private healthcare under the Choice Act.


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