Overloaded and ill-equipped to handle thousands of veterans needing mental health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now seeking help from the private sector. The agency recently entered talks with the Warrior Care Network (WCN) in hopes of becoming formally involved with this unique solution to veteran health care woes. The WCN is a network of private hospitals across the country that will offer outpatient mental health care to thousands of veterans free of charge.
WCN is a program founded by the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a non-profit that works to raise awareness for the needs of wounded veterans. It will be a collaborative effort among four major medical centers across the country to diagnose and rehabilitate veterans while also working towards innovative treatment techniques by sharing case studies and research. The network is set to treat 3,000 to 4,000 veterans a year and has promised to ensure those who are eligible for network care will "not be denied access to state-of-the-art, patient-centered care due to their geographic location or inability to pay."
News of this partnership comes a week after the Government Accountability Office released its most recent report on the troubles at the VA, claiming the agency has yet to be consistent in giving veterans timely mental health care treatment. The WCN is just one way the VA is looking toward the private sector to help meet demands: it is proposing a program, Veterans Choice, that would allow more veterans to seek care privately. However, this program needs congressional approval and funding which will take time, potentially years.
The WCN, on the other hand, was announced this past June and will launch early 2016. Funding is primarily from the WWP, contributing $15 million in three years to each of the partnering hospitals; each hospital will provide a matching grant of $7.5 million.
WCN welcomes this partnership with the VA, citing the need to have health care professionals familiar with military life. Stars and Stripes reports:
It could be "a game-changer for veterans," said Jeremy Chwat, chief strategy officer at Wounded Warrior Project.
"The reason we pursued this, in large part, is that in findings year over year in our survey, warriors are struggling to access mental health care on a daily basis," he said. "There's a dearth of culturally competent clinicians to meet the need."
Participating hospitals include: Emory Healthcare's Veterans Program in Atlanta, the Home Base Program at Massachusetts General in Boston, Operation Mend at UCLA Health in Los Angeles and the Road Home Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
For more on the crisis at the VA, check out Reason TV's 2013 documentary, "Is Government Bureaucracy Failing Our Vets?"