WATCH: Mark Kelly Joins Arizonans for Roundtable Discussion on Veterans’ Health Care
On Friday, Mark Kelly joined a group of veterans and health care providers for a roundtable discussion about issues related to veterans’ health care, including barriers they face in obtaining quality care and the shortcomings of the veterans’ health care system. The group talked about how Washington can work to ensure veterans get the care they have earned, emphasizing the importance of having leaders who use facts and data to solve problems.
They also discussed specific issues like the importance of an effective Postal Service to ensure veterans receive their prescriptions on time, the challenges that different groups of veterans face, and the lack of knowledge-sharing between different health care providers.
Watch full video of the roundtable HERE.
Here are some highlights from the roundtable:
On challenges veterans face in navigating the VA health care system
MARK KELLY [1:30]: The public health and economic crisis brought on by this pandemic has highlighted many of the issues in our veterans’ health care system. In the wake of this pandemic, 7.3 million appointments with the VA health care system were cancelled — a third of those received no follow-up. Those veterans seeking health care services are now at an increased risk.
DEOBRAH MARTINEZ-GARIBAY, ARMY VETERAN & VETERAN SERVICE WORKER, TUCSON [36:58]: We need to cut out a ton of bureaucracy — I think that’s what is killing our vets. […] I think the VA has the best intentions. We go in there and they want to do right by us. And then we have our doctors and they’re amazing and they will jump through hoops for us. But then there’s this bureaucracy that we have to navigate to get to those people, and it’s a mess.
SHYNOWAH BAHE, AIR FORCE VETERAN, FLAGSTAFF [40:29]: [I would like to make] the transition smoother for veterans who move. Working at the VA, I just remember a new veteran would move into town, they would basically have to reenroll. […] I was enrolled in New Mexico, and I basically have to set up a whole new application for Arizona, and then it’s like when they go through the appointments, they don’t know anything about me. I would hope that they would have a system where they could see my medical history already and know about the conditions I have, but they don’t.
On the need for a strong Postal Service to deliver prescription medications
MARK KELLY [1:57]: There are also concerns over the Postal Service, since the VA fills about 80% of its prescriptions through the mail. The USPS is fundamental in getting prescriptions to our veterans and a delivery delay could be catastrophic for patients. So we have to do better, and we owe it to those who serve our nation.
On the need for more physicians
MARK KELLY [35:40]: One thing I’ve come to learn about health care in our country over the last 18 months of running for United States Senate is that residency programs across the country — we have the same number of residents every year that we had in the 1980s, when we had a much smaller population. As the population of our country has grown, the number of residents has stayed flat. That makes it a math issue that, as there are more hospitals and clinics to try to serve more patients, the number of physicians is staying the same. So there needs to be an effort, I think, at the highest levels in Congress to try to get the system to where we have enough physicians.
Watch the full video HERE.