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Perry proposes plan to ease VA medical backlog

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm •  Published: June 12, 2014

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday proposed a partnership between Texas health care providers and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that would help reduce backlogs at VA facilities by expanding health care options for veterans in the state.

During an appearance at Fort Hood, Perry announced efforts to identify Texas hospitals willing to take more patients from backlogged VA facilities.

"There is no greater charge than taking care of those who have served in our nation's Armed Forces, which is why we are working to offer alternatives for veterans who have found their federal options lacking, or worse, nonexistent," Perry said at a groundbreaking for a new medical facility specializing in mental health treatment.

Perry also proposed reimbursement for participating Texas hospitals through Medicare so providers are paid more quickly.

Several of the largest health systems in Texas — some of which already accept VA patients — have signed onto the idea, according to Perry aides. Perry's plans would require the federal government's approval.

Also Thursday, officials with the Texas Veterans Commission announced they are looking at setting up "state strike force teams" that would help with delays in access to health care. These teams of counselors would work with veterans on getting them quicker access to health care.

The U.S. Senate and House this week have passed bills making it easier for veterans who have encountered delays getting initial visits to receive VA-paid treatment from local doctors instead. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said Perry's proposal to the Veteran Affairs Department builds on those measures by identifying hospitals "willing to step up" and offering a solution to slow reimbursements for providers.

Federal data released this week showed that VA facilities in Texas have some of the longest wait times for veterans trying to see a doctor for the first time. The FBI has launched an investigation into the Veteran Affairs Department amid allegations of falsified records and inappropriate scheduling practices.

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