Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ROA Tackles Healthcare with VA Committee Chairman

The Reserve Officers Association was one of 18 associations invited to meet early Tuesday morning with House Veterans Affairs committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL.) along with three other members of Congress for a roundtable discussion of the most pressing issues impacting US veterans. While many challenges were addressed, including the high rate of suicide among Reservists, improving mental health treatment, and Reserve unemployment, ROA championed two important issues: alternative treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury and improving the reliability of Reserve access to TRICARE providers.

Major General Drew Davis, ROA’s executive director brought up concerns over the quality of treatment offered by the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense (DoD) as it relates to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). This is an issue felt far and wide across the reserve community, as evidenced by the recent passage of an ROA  national resolution in support of going beyond traditional rehabilitation care to provide victims of brain trauma with advanced treatment programs, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  Hyperbaric therapy shows a history of success in treating severe burns and helps diabetics avoid amputations.  Medicare has saved over $348 million using hyperbaric therapy rather than performing amputations. General Davis pointed out to these members of Congress that both the VA and DoD are “stiff arming” the use of hyperbaric therapy with claims that it isn’t FDA approved, and that there isn’t enough research.  Experts disagree, and ROA asked the committee to apply congressional pressure to both departments to make them more receptive to this therapy.  Chairman Miller concurred, pointing out that Army Reserve Brigadier General Patrick Maney (an ROA member) received such treatment and returned to being a judge in Miller’s congressional district, and that Air Force Colonel Bud Day’s grandson had also gone through such treatment.  Col. Day is a Medal of Honor recipient and took a case on military retiree health care to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The topic of permitting veterans to use the TRICARE network as an alternative to traveling to VA facilities was also discussed.  CAPT Marshall Hanson, ROA’s legislative director, emphasized the importance of communication and education should that solution to veteran health care be pursued.  CAPT Hanson pointed out that most Reserve and Guard members are pleased with TRICARE, but in rural areas, the frustration is trying to find a provider.   As any doctor who takes Medicare is automatically qualified to accept TRICARE, it is important to teach both the beneficiary and the health care professional about joining the  system to ensure success.

No comments: