DoD - VA Task Force Report
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In 2001 President Bush signed an executive order establishing the Presidential Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans (PTF).
The goal of the PTF is to ensure veterans, including military retirees, are provided timely access to quality health care delivered efficiently and compassionately. The PTF has been charged with identifying areas where collaboration between the VA and DoD health care systems could improve quality, access, and the efficiency of health services.
Ms. Gail R. Wilensky, PhD, a Senior Fellow at Project HOPE and past Medicare Administrator, and retired Arkansas Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt are the co-chairmen of the PTF. The Retired Officers Association's (TROA) Deputy Director of Government Affairs, Sue Schwartz, DBA, RN, is one of 15 commissioners appointed by the President to serve on the PTF.
The Interim Report, released on July 31, identifies a number of critical issues that the PTF believes DoD and VA must address to improve delivery of health care services to the uniformed services and veteran communities. But the report does not name specific recommendations on how the two giant federal health care systems should improve their joint planning and activities. Instead, it points to a need for:
Core funding levels, especially for a VA health care system that now suffers yearlong waiting times for appointments at many locations; Clear-cut commitment to collaboration from top leadership of the two agencies; Significant upgrades in information management/technology to support collaborative efforts; and Improvements in the departments' prescription drug delivery processes.
The growing gap between demand and capacity in VA health care may make the "core funding" issue a significant challenge for the PTF as it moves into the final phase of its work. Under a continuing VA "open enrollment" policy, more than six million veterans (including over 700,000 retirees) are now enrolled in VA care, but this year's appropriation can serve only about 4 million patients. Nationwide, 315,000 veterans are on waiting lists of at least six months for appointments. Congress has approved $417 million in supplemental funding to help address the short-term problem, but the PTF is likely to focus on longer-term systemic options.
TROA continues to urge that the Task Force base its eventual recommendations on the principle of preserving or enhancing earned health care benefits for all categories of beneficiaries - active duty service members, their families, military retirees, veterans, and survivors of veterans who died of service-connected causes. The PTF must produce a final report by March 2003.
More information on the PTF can be found at http://www.va.gov.