Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said the department will immediately hire 100 more patient advocates and he will lead an interagency task force, ordered by President Bush, to streamline and coordinate care for veterans who return stateside.
Both moves come in response to a growing number of reports highlighting subpar treatment of servicemen and women at military and VA hospitals. Yesterday, federal lawmakers for a second straight day hammered Army leadership over its lapse of accountability for patient-care problems at 261-bed Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington.
The group of new patient advocates, expected to be made up of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, will help transition wounded veterans to VA healthcare facilities and help cut through red tape that sometimes can delay needed patient care. The VA is the nations largest healthcare system, with 5.8 million patients expected this year.
Aside from the VA, Bushs task force will include the secretaries of HHS, Defense, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Education, as well as the administrator of the Small Business Administration and the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. The task force will have 45 days to find and fix problem areas between the various government departments that aid veterans. -- by Matthew DoBias