A veterans group asked a federal judge on Friday to compel the Department of Veterans Affairs to comply with a previous court order and explain the implementation of a law giving veterans access to private sector care, including details of how top officials may be trying to discourage veterans from using this option.
The bipartisan MISSION Act gave millions of veterans the right to access private care outside the VA system if VA wait times are too long or when it is in the veteran’s best interest. But veterans and lawmakers have said the Biden administration’s VA has worked to limit access to this new benefit, and VA officials have said publicly they are worried about the prospect of too many veterans choosing private care over VA care.
Last year, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, on behalf of Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), sued the VA to gain access to documents related to the VA’s implementation of the MISSION Act, and in July 2022, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia directed the VA to comply with this request. The order commits the VA to produce 500 pages of records per month.
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CVA says the judge’s order uncovered documents that show the VA is actively working against the idea of a private sector choice. For example, the documents reveal the VA is reducing patient wait times to make them ineligible for private sector care and has issued training documents instructing 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 the VA is not complying with the VA MISSION Act and is denying veterans the timely and convenient community care they want and need,” said Darin Selnick, senior counsel for Concerned Veterans for America and former top adviser to VA secretaries David Shulkin and Robert Wilkie.
But the VA has so far not released any documents explaining where those policy directives came from and which senior officials signed them. The CVA said part of the problem was that the department was mostly passing on duplicate files.
“Unfortunately, the agency’s disclosure efforts have been unsuccessful,” said the statement Friday, which was filed in court by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation on behalf of CVA. “The majority of records provided to the AFPF contain duplicate copies of a handful of non-email attachments, and the agency avoids explaining why this is the case.”
The new filing asks the court to order the VA to produce at least 750 pages of “non-duplicative” documents each month, in hopes of getting closer to who in the department or the White House may be behind efforts to derail the MISSION Act .
The filing said its purpose was to “bring to light guidance or directives that may have been issued by senior VA or White House officials regarding proper interpretation.”
“The VA’s tactics suggest they are desperate to hide additional FOIA documents that we suspect will show which senior VA officials were responsible for denying life-saving care to veterans and why they did it,” Selnick said. “Veterans, Congress and the public deserve to know the truth so that VA officials can be held accountable for their actions.”
“Someone had to say ‘do it,’ and someone had to have a reason to say ‘do it,'” Selnick added.
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CVA and others said one clear evidence the VA is trying to push veterans away from private sector care is that the VA removed a link that explained MISSION Act benefits to veterans. That link now takes veterans to a page called “Choose VA” that explains VA benefits.
“The records under review touch on fundamental questions about the government’s integrity in performance.” [the law] and regulating America’s veterans’ timely access to quality health care,” the filing said.
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Virginia has until mid-January to respond to the new court filing. The department did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the case.