Teresa Boyd, Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health at the Veterans Health Administration recently told House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health members they would have to wait another few weeks before the VA’s “Elderly Strategic Plan” will be ready for release. Even so, lawmakers asked the VHA official about issues found in a recent Government Accountability Office report.
Military.com’s recent article entitled “Lawmakers Scrutinize VA’s Plans to Provide Long-Term Care for Aging Baby Boomers” reports that there are currently about 3.2 million veterans aged 65 years or older using VA health care services. The GAO found that the VA anticipates the amount of long-term care provided to veterans with service-connected disabilities will increase by 18% from fiscal 2017 to 2037, plus another 5% to provide the services to post-9/11 veterans.
The government watchdog report identified three issues facing the VA, as it prepares for a generation of aging Baby Boomers:
- Staffing shortages
- Access to specialized providers; and
- Trouble getting to vets in rural areas.
Boyd said that the VA’s plan will address the concerns listed by the GAO.
Despite the VA’s ongoing improvements to scholarship and student loan payback programs to attract more staff, Representative Conor Lamb, D-Pennsylvania, wasn’t as optimistic. He’s concerned the current administration’s actions against VA unions will detract those the VA is trying to court. The Trump administration had cut a type of pay union representatives receive, while pursuing grievances on behalf of bargaining units and requiring union staff to pay for office space.
“The type of people who are going to take a home health aide or assistance job are often the people who need that sort of protection and support the most,” he said. “And I think for us to recruit the best of the best in that category for the next generation, you want the people who are already there telling their friends, ‘Hey, VA’s a great place to work. They stick up for us; they pay us well; they take care of our needs if we get sick … ‘”
Lamb asked the VA to consider this, as it looks at the obstacles found in the GAO report.
Meanwhile, Brownley and other lawmakers advocated for more investments in the VA’s in-home, long-term care programs.
“In recent years, stakeholders have largely focused on VA’s community care and caregiver programs. While these are essential areas for VA to get right, the scale of the silver tsunami is something VA cannot afford to get wrong,” Brownley said. “Millions of veterans and their families are relying on us to ensure their later years are as dignified and healthy as possible.”
Boyd agreed that many seniors want to remain in their own homes as long as possible, rather than moving to a facility for their long-term care. Boyd reported that the results of one of the VA’s in-home programs, Choose Home, have played a role in developing the strategic plan to be released in the next few weeks.
Reference: military.com (March 9, 2020) “Lawmakers Scrutinize VA’s Plans to Provide Long-Term Care for Aging Baby Boomers”