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Watchdog asks judge to end VA ‘obstruction’ and identify officials behind health care restrictions


A watchdog group that advocates on behalf of veterans asked a federal judge Friday to compel the Department of Veterans Affairs to follow a previous court order and explain its implementation of a law that gives veterans choice in sector care. private, including details of how senior officials may be trying to discourage veterans from using that option.

The bipartisan MISSION Act gave millions of veterans the right to access private care outside of the VA system if VA wait times are too long or when it is in the best interest of the veteran. But veterans and lawmakers have said that the Biden administration’s VA has worked to limit access to this new benefit, and VA officials have said publicly that they are concerned that too many veterans will prefer private care over medical care. of the VA.

Last year, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation sued the VA to gain access to documents related to VA’s implementation of the MISSION Act, and in July 2022, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia ordered the VA to comply with that request. The order committed the VA to producing 500 pages of records per month.

DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO EXAMINE ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ DELAYS IN HEALTH CARE FOR VETERANS

The Biden administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Denis McDonough, is being pressured in a new court filing to turn over information about which top officials seek to limit veterans’ health care options. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
(AP)

Groups like Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) say the judge’s order has revealed documents showing the VA is actively working against the idea of ​​private sector choice. For example, the documents reveal that the VA is reducing wait times for patients so they are ineligible for private sector care, and has issued training documents instructing VA health care workers not to discuss the private care options with veterans.

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“Based on the initial FOIA investigation, we know that the VA is not following the VA’s MISSION Act and is denying veterans the timely and convenient community care they want and need,” said Darin Selnick, CVA Senior Counsel and Former VA Senior Counsel. Secretaries David Shulkin and Robert Wilkie.

But the VA has so far not released any documents explaining where these policy directives came from and which senior officials signed them. CVA said part of the problem is that the department has mostly been turning in duplicate files.

Veterans say Biden's VA has worked for nearly two years to keep veterans within the VA system and not allow them to seek care in the private sector.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Veterans say Biden’s VA has worked for nearly two years to keep veterans within the VA system and not allow them to seek care in the private sector. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
(AP)

“Unfortunately, the agency’s outreach efforts have been mediocre,” said Friday’s filing, which was brought to the court by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. “The overwhelming majority of records submitted to the AFPF comprise duplicate copies of a handful of non-email attachments, and the agency has avoided explaining why this is the case.”

The new filing asks the court to order the VA to produce at least 750 pages of “non-duplicate” documents each month, hoping to get closer to who in the department or the White House might be behind the effort to thwart the law. MISSION.

The filing said its goal is “to bring to light any guidelines or directives that may have been issued by senior VA officials or the White House regarding proper interpretation.”

“VA filibuster tactics suggest they are desperate to hide additional FOIA documents that we suspect will show which senior VA officials are responsible for denying veterans vital care and why they did it,” Selnick said. “Veterans, Congress and the public deserve to know the truth so that VA officials are held accountable for their actions.”

“Someone had to say ‘do it,’ and someone had to have a reason for saying ‘do it,'” Selnick added.

BIDEN’S VA UNDERMINES LAW GIVING VETERANS ACCESS TO PRIVATE HEALTH CARE

President Biden inherited a bipartisan law that allows veterans to seek private care when needed, but the VA is accused of restricting that option.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Biden inherited a bipartisan law that allows veterans to seek private care when needed, but the VA is accused of restricting that option. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

CVA and others have said that clear evidence that the VA is trying to wean veterans away from private sector care is that the VA removed a link that explained the MISSION Act benefits for veterans. Now, that link takes veterans to a page called “Choose VA,” which explains VA benefits.

“The records in question touch on fundamental questions about the integrity of the government in implementing [the law] and regulate the timely access of American veterans to quality health care,” the filing says.

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VA has until mid-January to respond to the new court filing.

“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, the VA remains committed to providing the best health outcomes for veterans, whether in our system or through care in the community,” VA spokesman Terrence Hayes told Fox News. Digital.



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