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Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

What Will Be Cost of VA’s Legacy EHR System During Changeover?

GAO Suggests VistA Will Be Around for Next Decade WASHINGTON—As VA moves forward with the comprehensive overhaul of its electronic health records system, the department will still need to keep its legacy EHR system functioning... View Article

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Year Supply of Contraceptives Prevents More Unintended Pregnancies

Birth Control Pill Change Could Save VA $2 Million Annually PITTSBURGH—What if there was a method to prevent nearly 600 unintended pregnancies and save the VA about $2 million a year in prenatal, birth and... View Article

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA Says It Is Working to Resolve Whistleblower Retaliation Issues

WASHINGTON—According to VA officials, the agency is well on its way to creating a culture that will allow whistleblowers to feel safe to report facility problems without fear of retaliation from supervisors. Yet, whistleblower advocates... View Article

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Feds Investigate 11 Unexplained Deaths at West Virginia VAMC

CLARKSBURG, WV – Law enforcement officials announced recently that a criminal investigation has been launched to look into the unexplained deaths of as many as 11 patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center... View Article

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA Pathologist Indicted In Connection Veteran Deaths in Arkansas

Investigators Say Impaired Clinician Recorded Wrong Diagnoses FAYETTEVILLE, AR – A physician employed by the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks here was indicted by a federal grand jury on a range of charges,... View Article

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

GAO: VA Still Lags in Ability to Track Veteran Wait Times for Care

WASHINGTON—Five years after scandal rocked the VA, the agency still does not have a reliable way of tracking patient wait times according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. In 2014, whistleblowers at the Phoenix... View Article

August 2019

MHS Pharmacies Prescribed 6,200 Naloxone Kits Under New Directive

FALLS CHURCH, VA—In June 2018, Defense Health Agency Director Raquel Bono, MD, directed all MHS pharmacies to dispense the opioid reversal agent naloxone to eligible beneficiaries and those who request it without requiring a prescription.... View Article

August 2019

VA: Blue Water Veterans Must Wait Until 2020 for Claims to Be Processed

Vietnam Vets on Ships Won Fight for Presumptive Agent Orange Status WASHINGTON—Blue Water Navy veterans who want to file disability claims related to Agent Orange exposure will have to wait until next year to have... View Article

August 2019

Whistleblowers Report Ongoing Harassment for Revealing VA Malfeasance

WASHINGTON—In 2014, Katherine Mitchell, MD, was one of a handful of employees at the Phoenix VAMC who blew the whistle on hospital leadership for keeping a separate, secret list of veterans seeking healthcare—a numerical sleight-of-hand... View Article

Cancer

Oral Cancer Therapies Create Critical Demand for Pharmacists

CHICAGO—The pace of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of oral anticancer medications has rapidly increased, from less than one a year at the turn of the century to 10 in 2018. While patients generally... View Article

Current Issue

Technology Experts Question MISSION Act Electronic Systems

WASHINGTON—VA is working under a tight deadline to implement the community care provisions of the MISSION Act, the new law that goes into effect this summer and revises and codifies access standards for veterans receiving... View Article

Current Issue

DCVAMC Acting Pharmacy Chief Ivan Cephas: ‘Caring Is the Reason’

WASHINGTON—Ivan Cephas, PharmD, the acting chief of pharmacy at the DCVAMC, would be the first to say that what he does is not above and beyond the call of duty. Despite having been awarded the... View Article

Current Issue

VA Reverses Stance, Won’t Challenge ‘Blue Water’ Veteran Court Ruling

WASHINGTON—In an about-face, the VA will recommend that the federal government not challenge a recent court decision ruling that the department cannot deny benefits to Vietnam-era Blue Water Navy veterans claiming Agent Orange exposure. The... View Article

April 2019

Executive Order Creates Task Force to Combat Veteran Suicide

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at lowering the rate of veteran suicides. The order—the President’s Roadmap To Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide—creates a Cabinet-level task force led... View Article

April 2019

Legislators Express Outrage Over Military Sexual Trauma Issues Subhead: Senator Describes Her Experience as Air Force Rape Victim

WASHINGTON—A recent survey of the military service academies found that sexual assault has spiked over the last two years, up 50% since 2016. This news sparked fresh outrage from legislators, resulting in a hearing focusing... View Article

2019 issues

Lack of DoD/VA Decision-Maker Could Hamper EHR Implementation

WASHINGTON—Plans are moving ahead for VA’s 10-year, $16 billion effort to modernize its electronic health record system, but legislators still have questions about the project’s timeline and funding, as well as concerns about the project’s... View Article

2019 issues

Democrats Look at VA Role of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Associates

WASHINGTON—Congress announced last month that it will be opening an investigation into alleged improper influence by three civilian consultants to President Donald Trump on administration of the VA. The three men—Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel... View Article

Current Issue

New Military Pharmacy Program Frees Patients from Long Waits

More than a dozen military treatment facility pharmacies have implemented a pilot customer service system that gives patients greater control over how they spend their time while waiting for prescriptions to be filled.

Current Issue

Legislators Question Whether VA Can Efficiently Implement Mission Act

Six months after President Donald Trump signed the VA MISSION Act–a bill that will, among other things, streamline and expand veterans’ access to non-VA healthcare providers–many legislators are concerned whether VA has the ability to implement the extensive provisions in the bill without the painful speed bumps experienced with past legislation.

Current Issue

VA Overall Appointment Wait Times Shorter than the Private-Sector

Despite intense scrutiny of wait times for veterans seeking VA care over the last three years, a new study pointed out that delays in the private sector weren’t statistically less in 2014 and that, possibly because of the focus, wait times now are significantly shorter for the VA compared to private-sector healthcare facilities.

Current Issue

New Venous Thromboembolism Guidelines Could Change Treatment at VA

Venous thromboembolism, which includes deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is the most common preventable cause of hospital death, according to the VA.

Current Issue

Efficiency at Expense of Effectiveness? Legislators Blast VBA Management

Recent problems with initiatives implemented by the Veterans Benefits Administration point to much larger, systemic issues in how the agency rolls out new programs, according to the VA Office of the Inspector General.

Current Issue

Use of Non-VHA Pharmacies Increases Risks of Scheduled Drug Overdoses

Using multiple sources to get prescribed pain medications and other Schedule II through V drugs increases risks for veterans, a new study finds.

Current Issue

Shared Antimicrobial Stewardship Surveillance System Saves Three VAMCs $2.3 Million

Three VAMCs that formed a collaborative group to optimize use of a shared clinical surveillance system saved more than $2.3 million in two years.

Current Issue

Report Questions Quality of Outsourced VA Benefit Examinations

A review of outsourcing by the Veterans Benefits Administration raised issues about the quality of contractor examinations and also questioned whether a proposed solution will work as intended.

Current Issue

VA Examines Ways to Lessen Care Disruption During EHR Implementation

Clinician input will play an important part in decisions that need to be made regarding VA's new EHR, VA officials assured lawmakers last month.

Current Issue

Unions Go to Court to Stop VA Changes in ‘Official Time’ Policy

VA's announcement that it would eliminate paid union-related official time for medical professionals, as of Nov. 15, has drawn a lawsuit from unions representing the agency's employees.

Current Issue

PhARMD Program Continues to Expand Pharmacists’ Clinical Role in VA

A tool developed by the VA has raised the profile of pharmacists as critical members of patient care teams at the VA, leading to a doubling of the number of pharmacists serving as providers.

Current Issue

Suicide Rates Jump Up for Younger Veterans in Recent Years

Rates of suicide among younger veterans (ages 18-34) “increased substantially in recent years,” climbing from 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2015 to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, according to a new report.

Current Issue

Two-Thirds of VAMCs Improved Quality, Efficiency in Recent Assessment

More than half of 15 VAMCs classified as “high risk” in the October 2017 Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning report moved out of that category in the most recent update. But one, the DCVAMC in Washington declined and is now considered “critical.”

Current Issue

Is It Time to Abandon One-Size-Fits-All Dosing for Antibiotics?

Increased obesity among veterans and the general population might be leading to more hospitalizations for infections and greater instance of failed treatment in patients who have been hospitalized.

Current Issue

VHA Accountability Unclear for Assuring Medical Equipment Sterility

Who is responsible for VHA's sterile processing reusable medical equipment is unclear, and the lack of accountability needs to be addressed, agency officials told lawmakers.

Current Issue

House Passes Bill to Improve Hiring, Retention at VHA

A three-year pilot program to provide undergraduate students a clinical observation experience within VA is called for in a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives.

Current Issue

Legislators Question Governance of VA EHR Implementation

How much will implementation and integration of a new electronic health record slow down processes at the VA, which already struggles with delays in care?

Current Issue

No Prior Mental Health Diagnosis for Many Soldiers Attempting Suicide

While mental health conditions are a strong predictor of who is likely to try to take their own life, that doesn't account for a sizeable percentage of soldiers at risk of suicide, according to a new study.

Current Issue

VA Evaluates Form to Improve Function in Medication Labels

When time is of the essence, good design saves lives. That was the lesson of a recent experiment in Pittsburgh that tested whether anesthetist trainees would grab the right medication in a stressful simulated operating room scenario or make a potentially fatal mistake.

Current Issue

Lawmakers Continue to Push VA to Meet Benefits Modernization Deadline

VA remains on track for implementing its new disability appeals system by the February 2019 deadline, VA officials told lawmakers at a recent hearing.

Current Issue

Despite Unanimous House Support, VA Opposes ‘Blue Water’ Legislation

VA officials told lawmakers last month that it opposes a bill that would expand the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam veterans who served offshore because the "science is not there."

Current Issue

DC VAMC Resolves Some of ‘Dysfunction’ Cited By VA Inspector General

The DC VAMC has addressed or resolved six of 25 recommendations made by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and is working to resolve the remaining ones, the facility announced last month.

Current Issue

Milwaukee VA Specialist Seeks to Make Radiology More Patient-Friendly

Ian Weissman, a radiologist with the Milwaukee VA, can trace his desire to be a doctor back to one source. “I grew up watching 'The Waltons.' There, the primary care doc was part of the community,” he explained. “That was my dream.”

Current Issue

As DHA Takes More Control, Military Medicine Undergoes Changes

In a bill recently signed into law, Congress signaled its intent to give the Defense Health Agency (DHA) greater control over the administration of military health care and medical research.

August 2018

Better Retention and Outcomes With One Tablet Therapy for HIV Patients

Patients taking a single tablet to control HIV had better viral suppression and stayed in care at higher rates than patients who took multiple pills.

August 2018

VA Vows to Stop Whistleblower Retaliation; Some Lawmakers Skeptical

VA leaders said loud and clear that the agency “will not tolerate” whistleblower retaliation.

August 2018

VA Surgeon Sees His Role as ‘Pillar of Hope’ for Veteran Patients

The theme of this year’s Harlem Fine Arts Show—the largest touring African diasporic art show in the United States—is “Health and the Healing Power of Art.”

August 2018

Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to Make Robert L. Wilkie the New VA Secretary

Robert L. Wilkie took office as the 10th VA Secretary after the U.S. Senate voted 86-9 to confirm him.

Current Issue

Demand surges for popular army clinical pharmacy course

With pharmacists from across the DoD and VA clamoring for spots in the Clinical Pharmacy Course at Army Medical Department Center and School (AMEDDCS) in Fort Sam Houston, TX, organizers offered back-to-back programs this spring, with another scheduled for August.

Current Issue

VA secretary nominee promises opposition to healthcare privatization

VA Secretary nominee Robert L. Wilkie promised lawmakers he would not privatize VA healthcare if he is confirmed.

Current Issue

House subcommittee pushes for burn pit exposure answers

The VA and its partners are pursuing research, including six major studies, to better understand the potential health effects of burn pit exposures.

Current Issue

Despite Shulkin ouster, VA continues with VISN restructuring plans

Despite changes in leadership, VA is planning to move forward with restructuring efforts, including redesigning its VISN system.

Current Issue

EMR Alert Helps Reduce Opioid/Benzodiazepine Co-Prescribing Risk at VAMCs

Since the launch of the Opioid Safety Initiative in 2012, the VA has implemented a number of steps designed to reduce the use of opioids and the risk of addiction and overdose among veterans.