AOPA Board member, Michael Oros, CPO of Scheck and Siress accompanied by AOPA lobbyist Catriona Macdonald, testified before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health on May 16, 2012 raising concerns about administrative barriers limiting care by non-VA providers, among other issues. His testimony pointed out the need for timely care that doesn't require the Veteran to travel hundreds of miles for that care and pointed out that older Veterans are particularly affected as they are more reluctant to pursue advocacy on their own behalf.
Mr. Oros described three things the VA could do to provide more uniformly high quality care by (1) ensuring Veterans choice of providers; (2) support for the O&P master's degree program to expand the pool of qualified providers; and (3) support evidence-based practice by promoting comparative outcomes research.
AOPA was also able to provide a dozen examples of barriers to care, denial of care, and pressure applied to Veterans to receive their prostheses from in-house VA clinicians rather than contracted providers. The examples were gathered by AOPA member, Eric Eisenberg, MS, CPO, and provided to AOPA for the hearing without identification of the sources.
Members of the Committee agreed with AOPA that the VA Inspector General's cost comparison, suggesting that VA-fabricated limbs cost 25% of those made by private providers, was not an apples-to-apples comparison and not useful for policy purposes.
Opening testimony by two Veterans provided patient experience confirmation of the problems later raised by AOPA in its testimony. One Veteran who said that his care had been very good at VA facilities and with private providers described how he had recently been led to believe that he could only receive a high tech knee from the VA facility 70 miles away, and that is was available from his local provider only 7 minutes from his home. One of the Veterans proposed a common sense approach of freezing all plans to change how prosthetics are provided pending a top to bottom programmatic review of the VA prosthetics program.
Following the hearings, Mr. Oros and Ms Macdonald met with key VA officials and secured a commitment to a first step on that recommendation by bringing all the VA elements or prosthetic services together with the O&P community to have an "all in one room" discussion of issues to avoid the confusion over who does what, where and when.
The interests of O&P, and the O&P Alliance were well-represented at the hearing, as John Register, an amputee Veteran testified on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics. AOPA's counsel, Catriona Macdonald, had been approached by House VA Committee staff and in response to that request had provided background information to the staff which helped them in formulating some of the questions posed at the hearing, and it appears that NAAOP was similarly engaged by the VA Staff also.
Click Here for the detailed summary of the hearing.
Photos of the AOPA presence are also available here:
Michael Oros Testimony
Michael Oros and witness panel
VA House Health Subcommitee Panel
Questions? Contact Catherine Graf at cgraf@AOPAnet.org or (571) 431-0807.