Watchdog asks judge to end VA ‘stone-walling’ and identify officials behind health care restrictions

A watchdog group working on behalf of veterans on Friday asked a federal judge to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to follow an earlier court order and declare implementation of a law giving veterans the option of private sector care, including Details of how senior officials may try to discourage veterans from using this option.

The nonpartisan MISSION Act gave millions of veterans the right to access private care outside of the VA system when VA wait times are too long or when it is in a veteran’s best interest. But veterans and lawmakers have said the Biden administration’s VA has been working to restrict access to this new benefit, and VA officials have publicly said they are concerned at the prospect of too many veterans receiving private care from the VA – Care might prefer.

Last year, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation sued the VA to gain access to documents related to VA’s implementation of the MISSION Act, and in July 2022 a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered VA to dismiss that request would comply. The contract required VA to create 500 pages of records per month.

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The Biden administration's Veterans Affairs Division, headed by Secretary Denis McDonough, is being pressured in a new court filing to release information about which senior officials are attempting to limit veterans' healthcare choices.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, file)

The Biden administration’s Veterans Affairs Division, headed by Secretary Denis McDonough, is being pressured in a new court filing to release information about which senior officials are attempting to limit veterans’ healthcare choices. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, file)
(AP)

Groups like Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) say the judge’s order revealed documents showing the VA is actively working against the idea of ​​private sector voting. For example, documents show that the VA is reducing patient wait times to make them unsuitable for private sector care and has issued training materials directing VA health care workers not to discuss private care options with veterans .

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“Based on the initial FOIA investigation, we know that VA does not comply with the VA MISSION Act and is denying veterans the timely and convenient municipal care they want and need,” said Darin Selnick, a CVA senior advisor and former Top -Adviser to VA Secretaries David Shulkin and Robert Wilkie.

But the VA has not yet turned over any documents explaining where these policies came from and which senior officials signed them. CVA said part of the problem is that the department mostly turned over duplicate files.

Veterans say Biden's VA worked for almost two years to keep veterans in the VA system and not have them treated in the private sector.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Veterans say Biden’s VA worked for almost two years to keep veterans in the VA system and not have them treated in the private sector. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
(AP)

“Unfortunately, the agency’s disclosure efforts have been lackluster,” said the filing filed with the court by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation on Friday. “The overwhelming majority of records submitted to AFPF consist of duplicates of a handful of non-email attachments, and the agency has avoided explaining why this is the case.”

The new filing asks the court to order the VA to produce at least 750 pages of “unduplicated” documents each month in hopes of getting closer to who in the department or in the White House might be behind efforts to prevent it MISSION Act.

The filing says their goal is to “bring to light any guidance or direction that may have been issued by senior VA officials or the White House as to proper interpretation.”

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“The VA’s blocking tactics suggest they are desperate to hide more FOIA documents that we suspect will show which senior VA officials are responsible for denying veterans lifesaving care and why they did it.” have,” said Selnick. “Veterans, Congress and the public deserve to know the truth so VA officials can be held accountable for their actions.”

“Someone had to say ‘do it,’ and someone had to have a reason, ‘do it,'” Selnick added.

BIDENS VA UNDERMINES THE LAW GIVING VETERANA ACCESS TO PRIVATE HEALTH CARE

President Biden inherited a bipartisan law that allows veterans to seek private care when needed, but VA has been accused of restricting those choices.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Biden inherited a bipartisan law that allows veterans to seek private care when needed, but VA has been accused of restricting those choices. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

CVA and others have said that clear evidence that the VA is attempting to push veterans away from private sector care is that VA removed a link explaining the benefits of the MISSION Act to veterans. Now, that link takes veterans to a page called “Choose VA” that explains the benefits of VA.

“The records in question raise fundamental questions about the government’s integrity in implementation [the law] and regulating American veterans’ timely access to quality health care,” the filing reads.

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VA has until mid-January to respond to the new court request.

“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, VA remains committed to providing veterans with the absolute best health outcomes — whether that is within our system or through community care,” VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes told Fox News Digital.

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