Sworn In As Undersecretary For Health
TAYLOR, CHAIR, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS COMMITTEE,
WEIDMAN, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, AND
PATRICK EDDINGTON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
On May 9,
Dr. Robert Roswell was officially sworn in as VA Undersecretary
for Health in a ceremony at the VA Central Office. Dr. Roswell
served most recently as VISN 8 director, which includes Florida,
Puerto Rico, and part of southern Georgia. VVA knows Dr. Roswell
from many past contacts and believes he will be an excellent
leader, and that we will have an excellent working relationship
maintains that Congress and the Bush administration must add not
less than $1.6 billion to the existing administration request,
with a target VHA budget of $25.5 billion. As we continue to
hear on virtually a daily basis about clinic closures and staff
cuts at VA facilities nationwide, VVA=s
leadership uses every opportunity to drive the message home.
VVA National President Tom Corey led the way when he met with
seven Senators in May, explaining why the VA medical system
needs more funds and that Congress needs to do much more to
insure accountability of how senior managers spend the funds
they do have.
week of May 13, Missouri State Council President Alan Gibson,
accompanied by VVA Government Relations staff, paid a series of
courtesy calls on the entire Missouri congressional delegation.
At each stop, the VVA team emphasized the need for additional
funding and additional accountability within the VA system.
Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay spent nearly an hour with the
VVA team discussing the state of the VA budget and related
Missouri and national leadership will be following up with each
office to insure maximum support for increased VHA funding and
accountability in the FY02 supplemental and the FY03 budget. The
previous week, West Virginia State President Charlie Mitchem
joined VVA national staff in visiting members of his
congressional delegation. Follow up on this effort is also
underway. A similar effort with the Maryland leadership is now
to get intensive involvement of state and local leadership is
essential if we are to secure the appropriated dollars needed to
fund veterans health care properly.
BILL AND VA HEALTHCARE
once again the adage that some bad ideas just won=t
go away, the House included language in the FY2003 National
Defense Authorization Act (HR 4546) that would place at risk an
already overloaded VA healthcare system. Section 723 of the
proposal contains extremely disturbing DoD/VA healthcare sharing
The guidelines established under paragraph (1) shall authorize
the heads of individual Department of Defense and Department of
Veterans Affairs medical facilities and service regions to enter
into health care resources coordination and sharing agreements.
(B) Under any such
agreement, an individual who is a primary beneficiary of one
Department may be provided health care, as provided in the
agreement, at a facility or in the service region of the other
Department that is a party to the sharing agreement."
leadership firmly believes that this would be a prescription for
chaos in the military and veteran health care systems.
legislation as written would guarantee the creation of a
bewildering kaleidoscope of differing access standards and
resource allocations that would ill serve beneficiaries. It also
likely would lead to VA patients being routinely displaced from
care to accommodate DoD personnel or their dependents. We now
have many years of unhappy experience with differing levels of
care and effort across the VISN system. This language in the
House version of the NDAA, if enacted into law, would insure a
further devolution of the quality and continuity of health care
for both DoD and VA beneficiaries.
communicating with House Veterans=
Affairs Committee majority staff on this subject, VVA reiterated
its view that the ongoing decline in VA capacity, particularly
in the specialized services, makes any potential health care
delivery sharing totally impractical. VVA also pointed out that
active-duty personnel are highly unlikely to avail themselves of
PTSD counseling services for fear that using such services would
create a medical paper trail that would compromise the service
ability to remain on active duty.
working with Senate staff to kill this portion of the NDAA. VVA
believes that Congress would be well served by waiting until the
Presidential Task Force to Improve Health Care for our Nation=s
Veterans has issued its final report next March before
attempting to legislate greater DoD/VA healthcare sharing. The
PTF may offer some well-informed recommendations that would be
preferable to the DoD/VA sharing language currently in the House
FY03 NDAA legislation.
On May 17,
the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon was about to
resume use of the controversial anthrax vaccine--this time
giving the shots to those only at ``highest risk==
and classifying the shots secret so that ``would-be attackers
would not know which troops are protected.==
view, this is another tragic example of the non-thinking that
characterizes the Pentagon=s
NBC defense establishment. VVA is totally opposed to the
classification of any portion of a servicemember=s
military medical record.
suggests the top leadership--including the Secretary of Defense
and all military and civilian personnel located at the
Pentagon--should be vaccinated first, and then the rest of the
troops. As the anthrax attack on the Senate proved, those in key
places in Washington are at highest risk. If the vaccine is good
enough for troops in the field, then it is good enough for top
brass and civilian officials. Leadership by example should be
anthrax letter attacks amply demonstrated, all of us--civilian
and soldier alike--are vulnerable to even low-level threats. VVA
believes that America=s
armed forces and civilians are best protected by 1) real-time
NBC detection and decontamination capabilities, and 2) medically
sound post-exposure antibiotic treatment regimens such as were
employed after the anthrax letter attacks last fall. VVA will
continue to urge the Defense Department, the services, and the
Congress to craft biomedical defense policies that are minimally
invasive and truly user friendly.
veterans know, nerve agent exposure can be fatal within minutes
unless appropriate medications are administered immediately. In
this scenario, two days may as well be two years.
directive confirms what VVA has feared and publicly articulated
since September 11: citizens will die needlessly in the
aftermath of a WMD incident unless VA receives adequate
resources now. The VA has been allocated a tiny fraction (less
than $80 million) of last year=s
post-9/11 multi-billion-dollar emergency appropriation for
homeland defense. VVA estimates that VA needs not less than $250
million in emergency preparedness funds this fiscal year alone,
along with an annual line item of not less than $300 million for
WMD-related staffing, training, and pharmaceutical stockpiling.
VVA will continue to press vigorously for adequate funding for
VA WMD preparedness initiatives.
importantly, the VA does not have the organizational capacity in
the way of doctors, nurses, and allied health care staff to be
able to meet the vital needs of the veterans they serve now, much
less successfully handle a large attack. Congress must provide at
least $25.5 billion to the Veterans Health Administration for FY
2003 for there even to be a reasonable chance to be able to meet
the responsibilities set forth under the fourth mission of VA.
Administration still has not tried to take effective action to see
that Public Law 106-50, the Veterans Entrepreneurship & Small
Business Act of 1999, is fully implemented. VVA is surprised that
this administration would not make the Executive Branch obey the
law that benefits both the government and service-disabled
veterans in small business, particularly in this time of war.
coordination with our partners in the Task Force for Veterans
Entrepreneurship, VVA is working closely with Congress,
particularly Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Christopher "Kit"
S. Bond (R-Mo.), as well as with leaders of both the Small
Business Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House
of Representatives to seek implementation and compliance with the
law. This may well necessitate further changes in the law,
including shifts in money away from the SBA to entities that want
to obey the law and are competent enough to make the law a reality
for disabled-veteran business owners.