USA TODAY US Edition

Re­form health care, vet­er­ans de­serve bet­ter

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LET­TERS LET­TERS@USATODAY.COM

What is the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs try­ing to hide?

Every Amer­i­can — es­pe­cially the more than 21 mil­lion vet­er­ans — should be ask­ing that ques­tion af­ter re­ports that the VA has stopped be­ing trans­par­ent about the qual­ity of care at its hos­pi­tals. This fed­er­ally man­dated dis­clo­sure was sup­posed to al­low po­ten­tial pa­tients to com­pare them with hos­pi­tals and clin­ics across the coun­try.

Sadly, this re­port only reaf­firms what we al­ready know: The VA has a ten­dency to not be trans­par­ent and truth­ful with vet­er­ans. And the data the VA does re­lease is any­thing but heart­en­ing. Vet­er­ans are wait­ing even longer than they were two years ago to see doc­tors or re­ceive care at VA hos­pi­tals and clin­ics. The VA has also ex­pe­ri­enced a marked uptick in med­i­cal er­rors at its hos­pi­tals in re­cent years, yet it’s do­ing less to de­ter­mine what’s caus­ing these po­ten­tially health-en­dan­ger­ing mis­takes.

The more we learn, the clearer it be­comes that the VA needs real re­form — and fast. That’s why Con­gress must pass the Car­ing For Our Heroes in the 21st Cen­tury Act — the most se­ri­ous VA re­form plan in decades. It would ex­pand vet­er­ans’ choices, in­tro­duce much needed ac­count­abil­ity, and en­sure that vet­er­ans can fi­nally trust the agency charged with pro­tect­ing them. Dan Caldwell Con­cerned Vet­er­ans for Amer­ica Ar­ling­ton, Va.

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I quit go­ing to “pri­vate health care” and went back to the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs for health care, be­cause they pro­vided bet­ter and more timely care than the out­side cash-hog doc­tors. Robert Ben­ning

This is a won­der­ful ex­am­ple of how the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion cares for our vet­er­ans. As a coun­try, we take bet­ter care of il­le­gal im­mi­grants than we do our vet­er­ans. Har­ris Wilks

I go to the VA and have al­ways re­ceived good care there. A few years ago, there was talk about do­ing away with the VA and go­ing to a voucher sys­tem for vet­er­ans. I don’t be­lieve there would be a lot of en­thu­si­asm in the pri­vate sec­tor un­der such a sys­tem. Michael Rog

To all the peo­ple clam­or­ing for sin­gle payer health care: Gov­ern­ment bu­reau­crats can’t han­dle the VA, they most cer­tainly won’t be able to han­dle the whole coun­try’s med­i­cal needs. Mike Smith

The VA is over­worked and un­der­paid. These sta­tis­tics have to be gath­ered by some­one to be pro­vided to the consumer group. This is a per­son who would be more use­ful tak­ing care of vet­er­ans than feed­ing in­for­ma­tion for sta­tis­ti­cal pur­poses. I am glad they stopped pro­vid­ing it, hon­estly. It means one more per­son is work­ing on vet­er­ans claims and health care in­stead of do­ing busy work. Mat­tie Rose Landry

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