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Dr. Damon Arnold discussed the future of veterans’ mental health care

Panelists focused on an under-discussed section of the VA MISSION Act of 2018 that could get the Department of Veterans Affairs. (this is weird).

Specifically, this section establishes an Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission to evaluate all VA facilities’ utilization patterns and infrastructure needs, and recommend whether to close, replace, consolidate, expand or repurpose them.

Congress will have no authority to alter the final set of the Commission’s recommendations.

Instead, Congress may only approve or disapprove of the recommendations in their entirety, within a tight time frame.

Because there will be no ability to question the Commission’s individual proposals, it is critical that Commissioners and Members of Congress be thoroughly aware of the far-reaching repercussions of any recommended closures.

“A key notion underpinning the creation of the AIR Commission is that some VA facilities can be shuttered, with patients pushed out into the private sector for comparable care at equal or lower cost,” said Suzanne Gordon, a senior policy analyst for VHPI. “This is fundamentally wrong.”

Indeed, many studies have found the VHA outperforms the private sector on key quality metrics.

The most recent evidence is a ​2021 Stanford study​ that compared outcomes of veterans who visited VA and non-VA emergency rooms.

It identified a clear “VA advantage” when it comes to mortality.

Veterans who were cared for at the VA had dramatically reduced death rates than those who were treated at private sector hospitals.

The VA was able to provide “survival gains” while reducing total spending by 21 percent relative to non-VA providers because of what the authors term “higher productivity” at the VA.

This edge is a result of better provider-to-provider communication, as well as the VA’s model of integrated care.

The AIR Commission was codified in legislation drawn out by the Trump administration and Koch-backed operatives.

President Biden should, therefore, be very careful about implementing this and other MISSION Act statutes that were specifically designed to undermine faith in government programs to justify the outsourcing of veterans’ health care to the private sector.

Before the AIR Commission is appointed in 2021, and begins its deliberations in 2022, it is vital that advocates and members of the public reach out to their federal representatives, the White House, and the VA with concerns.

Those interested in hearing more about this Commission are cordially invited to a VHPI Zoom forum focused on these issues, on April 30 at 2 p.m. CST.

Register in advance for the Zoom event at the link below:

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