VA Announces Pilot Program to Help Fix Alaska’s Broken VA Health Care System

WASHINGTON, DC – At a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on pending health care and benefits legislation, Dr. Thomas Lynch, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health Clinical Operations, announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be creating a new pilot program in Alaska to address the failed implementation of the Veterans Choice Program in the state.

The announcement of an Alaska VA pilot program follows a Veterans’ Affairs Committee field hearing held by Senator Sullivan in Alaska in August.  This hearing was attended by Dr. David Shulkin, the VA Undersecretary of Health – and Dr. Lynch – both at the request of Senator Sullivan.  Dr. Shulkin and Dr. Lynch heard directly from numerous Alaska veterans who were no longer able to get the healthcare they had earned because of implementation failures within the Veterans Choice Program.  

During the hearing on Capitol Hill, Senator Sullivan read from written comments submitted by Alaskans following the field hearing and pressed the VA to consider the unique needs of Alaska’s veteran population.

(Click here to view Sen. Sullivan’s remarks at Senate VA hearing)

Dr. Lynch said that this new Alaska Pilot Program will attempt to fix Alaska’s problem, in part, by putting the scheduling of appointments back into the hands of Alaskans. 

According to Dr. Lynch, Phase One of this program – which involves a virtual presence in Alaska – is already in place and Phase Two, which involves additional employees and resources in the Alaska VA, will completed by mid-November of this year.

“I am pleased that after hearing from upset veterans across Alaska, the VA is finally working to tailor the ‘one-size-fits-none’ Veterans Choice Program to fit unique needs of Alaska’s veterans,” Senator Sullivan said after the hearing. “Importantly, that fix begins with giving Alaskans more local control over the Veterans Choice Program. There is still much work to be done on this issue and Alaskans should know that I will continue to hold the VA's feet to fire until they fix what's gone wrong in Alaska for each and every Alaskan veteran.  Our nation owes it to them and I am committed to making sure the VA delivers on that debt.”