United Spinal Association and its VetsFirst program members are concerned about the potential privatization of veterans health care.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ hospitals, clinics, and ancillary services are healthcare providers for veterans seeking medical care for service-related or service-exacerbated illnesses and injuries. Moreover, poorer veterans with illness and injuries not related to their periods of service can obtain care from the VA, as well, on a space available basis. VA facilities treat veterans of all service eras. If poorer veterans seek care from non-VA sources they will burden state Medicaid budgets and crowd hospitals.

The VA has the largest system of care for spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D) in the United States. VA care provides a coordinated life-long continuum of services for veterans with SCI/D. There are 24 VA Spinal Cord Injury Centers which provide comprehensive rehabilitation, SCI/D specialty, medical, surgical, primary, preventive, psychological, respite, home and long-term care as well as other skilled services, as needed. VA medical centers that do not have SCI Centers, have created designated teams (physician, nurse, social worker) to address primary care needs for veterans with SCI/D and to make referrals to SCI Centers. Civilian hospitals that specialize in SCI will be overwhelmed if VA privatizes SCI care and forces spinal cord injured veterans to seek care elsewhere.

VA’s SCI specialty care focuses on the prevention or early detection of complications with multidisciplinary teams providing annual comprehensive evaluations. Each year, approximately 450 newly spinal cord injured veterans receive rehabilitation at VA’s SCI centers.

Due to concern regarding extensive waiting lists, VetsFirst supports VA’s Choice program which allows veterans to see private doctors if they are experiencing long wait-times in getting their health care needs addressed at the VA. Currently, veterans who live outside a 40-mile radius from a VA facility, or who cannot be seen by a VA doctor within 30 days, are permitted to see a provider at an approved non-VA facility through Choice.

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,243 health care facilities, including 170 VA Medical Centers, where essential SCI/D research is ongoing, and 1,063 outpatient sites delivering care of varying complexity. While providing medical care for more than 9 million veterans, VA’s SCI care centers, in particular, provide severely disabled veterans with state of the art neurological care.

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