Last week, the United States Senate unanimously passed legislation that should hopefully serve to benefit our nation’s veterans. Initially introduced by Sen. Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa), the Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act aims to prevent veterans from being treated by VA physicians with histories of substandard care and/or revoked licenses. As a veteran of the Army National Guard and the first woman combat veteran elected to the Senate, Sen. Ernst was inspired to draft the bill by the story of Anthony French – an Iowa veteran who suffered and was harmed after undergoing brain surgery performed by a VA neurosurgeon with a revoked medical license.
Mr. French’s story is unfortunate – and almost certainly avoidable – but he is not alone in his experience, as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of veterans who have been mistreated and harmed by the VA and it’s lackadaisical, dare I say negligent, hiring procedures and practices. In fact, the VA initially came under scrutiny for this in 2017, after news reports surfaced exposing the shotty hiring practices that plagued VA facilities across the country. In response, the VA reported to be taking steps in effort to address the problem; but, three years have passed, and the VA is allegedly still conducting its national review.
Fortunately, though, in an effort to help spur change, Sen. Ernst crafted the above legislation that will require that every healthcare provider hired by the VA with a revoked license undergo a third-party review of that provider’s care. If the review finds that a competent healthcare provider would have managed a veteran’s care differently, then the veteran will be notified. This bill is a decent step in the right direction and Sen. Ernst should be applauded for her efforts, but the fight is not over, and measures will need to be taken to ensure that the bill's provisions are implemented appropriately.
The VA is no stranger to controversy and has a long history of providing substandard care to our nation’s veterans. Staffing shortages, outdated operating systems, and poor hiring practices and procedures are just a few of the issues which plague the health care system designed to serve nearly 9 million veterans. However, each time an issue arises, the VA responds with bottomless promises to implement change that they consistently fail to deliver.
My sincere hope is that this legislation will help to bring about some much-needed improvement to the VA healthcare system and ensure that our veterans receive the best quality care possible. That means licensed and qualified physicians with reputations for providing top notch care - it’s the least we can do for those men and women who have served our country and given selflessly for our freedoms.