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Dan Wasserman l Boston Globe
Editorial

In the trenches: Coats, Donnelly seeking answers for veterans

File

The lies and lag times revealed at Veterans Administration hospitals show deep and systemic problems. The firestorm of resignations and denunciations in Washington was inevitable, but it will not solve the problems.

Nonpartisan efforts to get at the truth and find a way around the VA’s administrative challenges may yield some results, though.

U.S. Sens. Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly have joined to demand answers from the VA about facilities here. A letter sent this week to the VA’s acting secretary, Sloan Gibson, by Republican Coats and Democrat Donnelly demands some answers on “the status of wait times and the use of unauthorized scheduling practices throughout Indiana.”

A similar request to the VA by the two senators from Kansas secured a document that showed problems at VA facilities throughout the Midwest. At least eight veterans in southern Indiana had to wait more than 90 days for a medical appointment, and The Indianapolis Star reported that new patients waited an average of 42 days for an appointment at the VA hospital in Indianapolis.

It’s not yet clear what the wait times are at Fort Wayne’s VA Hospital. But Michael Brady, public affairs officer for VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, said an internal review by a VA audit team revealed no secret wait lists here.

George Jarboe, Allen County veterans service officer, said Thursday that he doubts the problems are as bad in Fort Wayne. “The majority of veterans I talk to are totally satisfied with the care they receive there,” Jarboe said.

Nonetheless, Coats and Donnelly are to be commended for working together to gauge the scope of the challenge for veterans’ care in the state. Donnelly and Republican U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman also have been working together to keep the spotlight on the VA hospital here.

Meanwhile, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, Thursday afternoon finished hammering out a bill that would allow veterans options for using private health care providers in some circumstances. Coats’ and Donnelly’s offices both expressed interest in that measure and said the senators were studying it.

The option of turning to private providers for more of veterans’ care indeed deserves attention. If the VA hospital here has avoided some of the egregious problems at other facilities, it may be because of its relationship with Parkview Health System and Lutheran Health Network. Both Parkview and Lutheran already work with many veterans who are referred by the VA for specialized treatment.

“We contribute to care for veterans,” Lutheran spokesman Geoff Thomas said. “We have for years – in conjunction with what is being offered” by the VA.

Even closer cooperation between the VA and hospitals here may be in the offing.

Thomas said Lutheran CEO Brian Bauer has met with the VA as recently as this week for “discussion to ensure that the best possible care is provided to veterans.”

These signs of progress on the VA issues are heartening. The 70th anniversary of D-Day is an appropriate moment to resolve that today’s veterans will get the best care Americans can provide.

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