Rep. Elaine Luria, Chair of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA), Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is not happy with Sec. Wilke.
And she wants a response to her letter of 10/20/20 by Nov. 16th. Why? It seems as if C & P exams by VHA employees are going away. She writes (Link to letter):
“During last year’s Subcommittee hearing on contract C&P examinations, VA testified that contract exams were intended to supplement the existing VHA C&P program, providing local examinations to rural veterans and prompt
appointments when VHA facilities had long wait times. Now, VA says full migration of C&P examinations to contractors was always the plan.
Luria is worried about a number of issues if VA retires the VHA C&P program. About 60% of C & P exams are outsourced now. She mentions the Covid backlog, the GAO report which noted that oversight of contractors was lacking, and potential lay-offs of VHA employees.
Luria writes, “For many veterans, thorough and accurate C&P examinations are crucial to securing service-connected benefits.” That is true but is she unaware that both VHA and contracted C & P exam results fail to be in the best interest of the majority of ill veterans? After twenty years of active service in the Navy, she retired at the rank of Commander (Link). It’s hard to say how much contact she had with VA during her career. But after her election in 2018, she is in the thick of VA shenanigans. As Stars and Stripes puts it, “
During a hearing she led last year, the VA said it would contract with more outside medical providers to perform C&P exams. Lawmakers were led to believe the contracted examiners merely supplemented the existing program, primarily to help rural veterans and those veterans facing long wait times, Luria said.
Recently, however, VA staff told Luria’s office about the department’s plan to shutter the C&P program at the VA and contract with the private sector for 100% of the exams.
What would be a fairer system? I think a veteran or representative should receive an allowance towards the cost of an IMO, equal to that which they pay to a contractor. The veteran could be issued a “kit.” If VA finds it doesn’t meet standards, they could buy a contracted C & P exam. The format and information in the kits should be exactly the same for the IMO and contracted providers. VA can and does still ignore favorable evidence and information in exams to deny claims.
At this moment, I’m not sure if new C & P contractors will have access to a veteran’s medical and/or military records. I remember reading about many veterans’ concerns about former Sec. Shulkin’s belief that eye exams should be outsourced because there “was a LensCrafters on every corner.” There were fears of privatization. And of course, LensCrafters are not situated on every corner. It may be that providers who join the VA Community Care Network, will also be conducting C & P exams–so wait and watch.
Laura (Guest author)
Update: Link to 2017 article about LHI Court Case mentioned in reply to Lem’s 3rd comment–scroll.