Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. At a hearing Wednesday, Dec. 3, Sanders wanted to know why new hepatitis C drugs cost so much and how the VA was going to pay for them.
In our ongoing series about hepatitis C, we look now at one of the hardest hit populations: veterans. Hep C is three times more prevalent among vets than in the general population. The Veterans Health Administration has the country’s largest hepatitis C screening and treatment program in the country. But that program is struggling to pay for new treatments – and the rising number of veterans who need them.
In late August, the power was shut off at the River United Methodist Church. The church, in the heart of downtown Woonsocket, was about a thousand bucks in arrears on its electric bill. The guy from National Grid apologized for doing what he had to do.
Church members, who specialize in doing a whole lot with very little, scrambled to do what they always do. They took food from freezers and refrigerators and headed to a nearby park to feed hungry people.
Tonight, the VA hospital in Providence will hold a town hall meeting for veterans, their family, and the public. VAs around the country were directed to hold such public meetings by the end of this month. The aim: to regain trust after a widespread scheduling scandal.
Several veteran-related bills made it through the General Assembly and are on their way to the governor’s desk. One of those bills gives disabled veterans waivers for classes at state colleges and universities.
Another bill lets honorably discharged veterans and National Guard reservists transfer skills they’ve learned during their service to fulfill requirements for trade apprenticeships.
Lawmakers also passed a resolution urging employers to give veterans who work for them time off on Veteran’s Day.
An audit released by the VA finds patients at the Providence VA Medical Center have some of the longest average waits in the nation to receive primary care. The Providence VA said that’s due to staff who retired and an increase in patients at its clinic in Hyannis, MA.
New patients receiving their first primary care appointments waited an average of about 74 days, according to the VA audit. Only seven other facilities across the country had longer waits.
Sen. Jack Reed is calling on Congress to address the systemic challenges plaguing the VA healthcare system.
Reed made the statement just hours after Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing cover up of long wait times for healthcare. Reed said the next secretary needs to start the job with a top to bottom review of what’s causing the backlog.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has conducted audits of medical centers around the country after allegations emerged that some centers had concealed appointment wait times. The Providence VA was audited on Friday last week.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki ordered the audits to uncover any other scheduling problems or misconduct. Providence VA spokeswoman Leslie Pierson says auditors spent all day Friday interviewing staff about scheduling practices.