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Civilian doctors don't know how to treat you

New study says only 2% doctors in NY are educated in vet issues.

Jake Hughes
March 01, 2018 - 11:13 am

At a time when there is a deep struggle within VA to expand the Choice program, a new study reveals that private doctors aren't properly prepared to treat veterans and their issues.

Only 2% of civilian doctors and health care providers in New York state are adequately trained to treat veterans and their illnesses, according to the study by the Rand Corporation. 

According to the study that was released last week, more than two-thirds of doctors who participated said they were not familiar with military culture and common injuries. Fewer than 50% said they don't regularly screen their patients for common veteran ailments, like substance abuse, chronic pain, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, respiratory or neurological problems, and depressive disorders.

"These findings reveal significant gaps and variations in the readiness of community-based health care providers to provide high-quality care to veterans," said Terri Tanielian, the study's lead writer. "It appears that more work needs to be done to prepare the civilian health care workforce to care for the unique needs of veterans.”

New York has the fifth largest veteran population in the country, with over 800,000 vets in the state, and about half of those are enrolled in the VA health system.

The study lends credence to those who are against privatizing the VA. They say that privatizing would lower the quality of care vets receive. The Choice program was implemented in 2014 after the infamous "wait time scandal" at a Phoenix VA hospital. Lawmakers have been debating overhauling the system, but so far there has been little movement. Most VSO's are speaking out in favor of saving the VA system as it is.

“Everyone here understands we oppose the slippery slope of privatization," says Denise Rohan, the Commander of the American Legion.  "Our first priority is to get veterans the care they need, where they need it and when they need it. We still believe that more often than not, the right choice is within the VA.”

The study was done at the request of the New York State Health Foundation. While the number of doctors that could effectively treat vets was low, over 90% said they could accept new patients. The recommendation made by the Rand Corp. was that doctors should attend courses that describe treatments for veterans, and should screen their new patients for military service.

Read the entire report here.