Fact check: Trump administration takes credit for Obama-era veterans health program – National



WASHINGTON — Boastful on the event of Memorial Day, U.S. President Donald Trump and his Veterans Affairs secretary are claiming full credit score for well being care enhancements that have been underway earlier than they took workplace.

Trump stated he handed a private-sector well being care program, Veterans Alternative, after failed makes an attempt by previous presidents for the final “45 years.” That’s not true. The Alternative program, which permits veterans to see docs exterior the government-run VA system at taxpayer expense, was first handed in 2014 beneath President Barack Obama.

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Trump’s VA secretary, Robert Wilkie, is also distorting the information. Faulting earlier “unhealthy management” at VA, Wilkie prompt it was his personal efforts that improved ready occasions at VA medical facilities and introduced new choices of same-day psychological well being service. The issue: The examine cited by Wilkie on wait occasions covers the interval from 2014 to 2017, earlier than Wilkie took the helm as VA secretary. Identical-day psychological well being companies at VA have been began in the course of the Obama administration beneath Wilkie’s predecessor, David Shulkin.

There’s a take a look at the half-truths and exaggerations.

TRUMP: “We handed VA Alternative and VA Accountability to offer our veterans the care that they deserve they usually have been attempting to cross this stuff for 45 years.” — Montoursville, Pennsylvania, rally on Could 20.

THE FACTS: Improper. Trump will not be the primary president in 45 years to get Congress to cross Veterans Alternative; Obama did it within the wake of a scandal at VA’s medical middle in Phoenix, the place some veterans died whereas ready months for appointments. This system at the moment permits veterans to see docs exterior the VA system if they need to wait greater than 30 days for an appointment or drive greater than 40 miles (65 kilometers) to a VA facility.

Trump did develop eligibility for this system. Now, beginning June 6, veterans are to have that choice for a personal physician if their VA wait is just 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is just 30 minutes.

Nonetheless, VA’s high well being official, Dr. Richard Stone, described the brand new program’s begin to “virtually be a non-event” in testimony to Congress. That’s partly as a result of wait occasions within the non-public sector are usually longer than at VA. In 2018, 34 % of all VA appointments have been with exterior physicians, down from 36 % in 2017.

Additionally key to the Alternative program’s success is an overhaul of VA’s digital medical data to permit seamless sharing of them with non-public physicians, a course of anticipated to take as much as 10 years. Wilkie has stated full implementation of the expanded Alternative program is “years” away.

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WILKIE: “The very first thing I did was change out the management at VA. … (The president) additionally allowed me to alter out management within the VA facilities. If somebody wasn’t strolling the submit, attending to know the individuals who work for him or her, or attending to know these veterans, they needed to depart. And, in consequence, the Journal of the American Medical Affiliation this yr stated that our ready occasions are actually nearly as good or higher than any within the non-public sector.” — interview Thursday with Fox Information.

THE FACTS: It’s true examine by the medical affiliation got here out in January that discovered wait occasions at VA medical facilities on common have been higher than the non-public sector. However the enchancment wasn’t a “consequence” of something that Wilkie did: The examine concerned a interval largely overlaying the Obama administration — and earlier than Wilkie grew to become appearing VA secretary in late March 2018.

The truth is, in a VA press launch in January asserting the examine’s outcomes, Wilkie credit the division’s “concerted” effort to enhance entry to care “since 2014.”

The examine lined 4 specialties, main care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics.

It discovered that in 2014, the common wait time at VA medical facilities was 22.5 days, in contrast with 18.7 days within the non-public sector, which was not statistically totally different. By 2017, the wait time at VA improved to 17.7 days, whereas rising to 29.eight days for personal docs. Wait occasions at VA medical facilities have been shorter in all specialties besides orthopedics.

In keeping with the examine, the variety of sufferers seen yearly in VA elevated barely between 2014 and 2017, to about 5.1 million. VA affected person satisfaction additionally rose, in accordance with affected person surveys cited within the examine.

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WILKIE: The VA “had suffered from unhealthy management. And that’s a bipartisan remark. And the second factor I needed to do was make it possible for as we strategy our veteran inhabitants that we make it possible for they’re on the middle, their wants are on the middle of what we do … I believe we’ve had it backwards at VA for a few years. … One of many issues that we’re doing at VA is that we’ve got same-day psychological well being service. … It’s large.” — interview with Fox Information.

THE FACTS: Identical-day psychological well being service began at VA earlier than Trump took workplace in January 2017, not to mention Wilkie.

VA’s effort to supply same-day main and mental-health care when medically essential at each VA medical middle was publicized in April 2016 beneath the Obama administration. On the time, Shulkin was serving to lead the hassle as VA’s high well being official. By late 2016, the division’s weblog introduced that the aim of same-day psychological well being companies can be achieved by yr’s finish.

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A Dec. 23, 2016, article within the Harvard Enterprise Overview cites new same-day companies in any respect VA hospitals as proof of notable progress on the division. Shulkin, who was then named by Trump to be his VA secretary, informed Congress in late January 2017 the companies already have been totally in place.

Trump chosen Wilkie to be his VA secretary after firing Shulkin in March 2018 due to ethics prices and inner insurrection on the division over the function of personal take care of veterans. Trump’s preliminary alternative alternative, White Home physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew after allegations of office misconduct surfaced. Whereas Wilkie has been credited by each events in Congress for bringing stability to the division, the VA enhancements he attributes to himself this previous week are misplaced.


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