Study: Private Docs Lacking in Care for Vets

Washington Report

(March 6, 2018) A study found physicians in the private sector are often unable to provide for the unique needs of military veterans even as Congress continues efforts to push more former military members to them.

Rand Corp. released a study last week that looked at medical providers in New York state and determined they “know little about the military or veterans, are not routinely screening for conditions common among veterans, and are unfamiliar with [the Department of Veterans Affairs],” according to Military Times.

The publication points out that the House and Senate are both working on bills that would allow veterans to more easily bypass the VA health-care system and receive treatment from private-sector providers at government expense.

This is not new. Last year, about one-third of medical appointments for veterans were outside the Veterans Health Administration. But lawmakers are trying to increase that number.

Critics of the plan have warned that community providers may not be adept at military-specific health problems like combat traumatic-brain injury. The Rand study seems to support that claim, Military Timesreported.

“We found that most providers regularly screened patients for pain-related concerns, but fewer regularly screened for suicide risk, sleep-related problems, and other issues,” according to the study’s authors. “Providers in the metropolitan region were less likely than providers in the western region to screen for common conditions among veterans.”

The study found that only one in three providers met the “minimum threshold for familiarity with military culture” and one in five routinely asked patients if they had a military background.

Although the study focused on only one state, New York has around 900,000 veterans. The researchers do not oppose allowing veterans to seek care from private-sector providers, but says “significant efforts are needed to increase the readiness of community-based provider to deliver culturally competent, high-quality care” for patients who are military veterans.