Jeb Bush's plan to change veterans' health care

Says issue would be a 'top priority'

Former Florida Gov. and presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Monday outlined his proposal to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in part by further privatizing care.

Access to care

Bush said revamping veterans' health care would be a "top priority" if elected president. He proposed expanding eligibility for the VA Choice Card Program, which aims to increase veterans' access to care by providing them with federally subsidized care at non-VA facilities. "If a veteran wants to see a neighborhood physician, he or she has earned that choice," he said, adding that VA should also accept prescriptions written by private physicians.

Some private doctors may not accept VA patients

Bush also said he would expand VA's use of technology. He said new technology is needed to help veterans schedule appointments and fill prescriptions online, arguing that existing programs for such tasks are "poorly designed."   

Moreover, Bush said VA must do more for female veterans. He proposed increasing VA funding for obstetrics, gynecology, ovarian, and breast cancer specialists, as well as for research about post-traumatic stress disorder in women.

Other plan components

In addition, Bush would like to change federal personnel rules to make it easier to fire VA employees who have been found responsible for slowing or preventing patient care. Bush criticized President Obama and Congress, saying neither had sufficiently addressed care delays and subsequent reports of cover-ups.

Just one worker was fired for role in VA wait-time scandal

Bush also addressed recent construction issues at VA, saying he would delegate building responsibilities away from VA to a more "relevant federal agency."

Bush did not say how much his proposal would cost. He said the effort needs to be part of a wider budget overhaul that would also include significant changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, as well as putting "everything on the table" at the Department of Defense (O'Keefe, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 8/17; Barrow, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/17; Shastry, Washington Times, 8/17).

What we can learn about access from the VA scandal

Inadequate staffing explains the long wait times at VA medical facilities—but not why so many VA staffers lied about their performance. We took a closer look at the VA’s access metrics to gain a more nuanced understanding of the problem.


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