The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations June 8 held a hearing titled VA and Academic Affiliates: Who’s Benefiting Now. On the witness panel, AAMC was represented by Christopher C. Colenda, MD, MPH, AAMC senior advisor on veterans affairs, dean emeritus of Texas A&M College of Medicine, former chancellor for health sciences at West Virginia University, and president emeritus of the West Virginia University Health System. The hearing was a follow up to a similar hearing that AAMC testified at last year [see Washington Highlights, June 10, 2016].
Other witnesses included Carolyn Clancy, MD, VA deputy undersecretary for health for organization excellence, who was accompanied by Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD, VA chief research and development officer, and Karen Sanders, MD, VA deputy chief academic affairs officer. VA’s non-profit corporations were also represented by Colonel Rick Starrs, CEO, National Association of Veterans Research and Education Foundation (NAVREF).
In their testimony, Dr. Colenda and Dr. Clancy both highlighted the indispensable and high-value role medical schools and teaching hospitals play in VA education, research, and patient care. The hearing focused on VA graduate medical education growth and accountability, as well as administering non-VA research grants to VA investigators with dual appointments.
Meanwhile, the full Senate VA Committee held a June 7 hearing titled Examining the Veterans Choice Program and the Future of Care in the Community. Witness included VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, MD, accompanied by Baligh R. Yehia, MD, deputy undersecretary for health for community care, and a second panel of veterans service organizations. AAMC submitted a statement for the record.
At the hearing, Dr. Shulkin announced the Coordinated Access Rewarding Experiences (CARE) Program, which would replace Choice and consolidate community care programs. In his testimony, Dr. Shulkin outlined key elements of the plan:
- Maintain a high performing integrated network that includes VA, Federal partners, academic affiliates, and community providers.
- Move from a system where eligibility for community care is based on wait times and geography to one focused on clinical need and quality of care.
- Where VA does not offer a service, Veterans will have the choice to receive care in their communities.
- Make it easier for Veterans to access urgent care when they need it.
- Assist in coordination of care for Veterans served by multiple providers.
- Apply industry standards for quality, patient satisfaction, payment models, health care outcomes, and exchange of health information.
Numerous Senators expressed opposition to any plan that would privatize the VA, and Dr. Shulkin agreed.