VA Creates Action Plan to Get Off 'High-Risk List'

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HARLINGEN – A Rio Grande Valley veteran is fed up with running into red tape at his local VA health facilities. He is hoping a new VA plan to get off a government high-risk list will solve the problem.

In a new release, the VA says it is taking decisive actions to reduce red tape and eliminate bureaucracy.

Veteran Jose Rodriguez knows what it's like to be in a fight. Rodriguez served in Vietnam for a year before being wounded by friendly fire.

He says his fight really started when he returned home.

Rodriguez tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS he's been trying to get help from the VA for nearly half a century.  When he came home to the Valley, he began dealing with the VA.

"First claim was in 1971. I didn't get any help until 2000. One of the doctors saw my records and he said, 'You should be getting some compensation for your wound.' I said, 'Well, they turned me down so I never went back.'"

Rodriguez says, since then, he received medication from the VA for his wound. He tells us dealing with the government group has been a challenge in his everyday life.

"Sometimes you can go in there and they see you right away and they give you what you need. And then other times, there's no doctors so nobody can see you," explains Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says he needs the help.  He believes the way the VA is being run is a problem.

He's not alone.

The Government Accountability Office says they are adding the VA to its high-risk list. That means the VA's health care services needs immediate and dramatic improvement in its system to streamline its services to veterans.

Rodriguez hopes this works so he can get the help he needs.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS did some digging to find out what the VA has to do to get off the GAO list.

A director at GAO, Debra Draper, spoke with us in an off-camera interview. She tells us the VA has to meet certain criteria to be removed from it.

Draper says the VA has to show leadership commitment, demonstrate it has resources to address the problem such as staff and funding and also develop an action plan.

Draper says the GAO will monitor the VA and look for demonstrated progress in making its healthcare system run more efficiently.

In response, the VA issued a statement. It says its action plan to remove itself from the list calls for reducing ambiguity.

The group says it will better serve veterans by strengthening internal oversight and accountability.

The GAO has a three-scale rating system to determine if VA healthcare has met its criteria to be taken off the high-risk list.

Draper adds the GAO will monitor the different criteria and grade the VA as having "not met," "partially met" or "fully met” expected standards.

She says once the VA healthcare program has demonstrated that it has fully met all the GAO's criteria, it will no longer be listed as "high risk."


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