Should VA Health Care be the U.S. Model? Sound Off!

130913 Should VA Health Care be the US Model

I need your help. VA is claiming the United States should follow its lead. I need you to tell me whether or not you agree.

Today, VA circulated a new article written by one of its doctors, Dr. Kamal Itani. Dr. Itani is a head surgical doctor working for VA Health Care, located at that Boston VAMC.

In Dr. Itani’s article, he highlights one example of how VA strategies resulted in savings of $1 million. He sites this success as the primary reason why the United States should follow VA as a leader in health care.

However, he fails to mention how VA’s search for cost savings has likely resulted in the deaths of many veterans, such as in the Buffalo VHA office. There, VA was reusing tainted insulin pens and exposed many veterans to Hep B and Hep C.

I have a theory. That theory is that this article is a public affairs article published for the purpose of improving VA’s public image. If true, then what Dr. Itani is saying below could be the position of VA, more broadly. I want to know what you think.

Here is the summary of his article linked within VA’s newsletter:

JAMA Surgery: This Is Not Your Father’s VA
For many years, perceptions of the VA were crystallized in Oliver Stone’s 1989 movie Born on the Fourth of July. In that movie, a VA hospital was characterized by apathetic staff, disengaged physicians, rampant drug use among patients, and old, malfunctioning equipment. The image of the VA was further tarnished in 2007 with the revelations of unsatisfactory conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a U.S. Department of Defense medical center that is not part of the VA. Finally, the recent, highly publicized concerns about delays in the processing of veterans’ benefits have been incorrectly assumed to imply delayed or inefficient care in VA hospitals. In fact, the VA’s health care system has become a model for the transformation of American medicine in the 21st century (Dr. Kamal M. F. Itani, 9/11).


If you read the bottom link, it will give you the first page of the article, to view free.

My assumption is that VHA endorsed his position based on the following: that standard policy rules apply to Dr. Itani – meaning he cannot publish anything on policy bordering on public relations outside of VA without approval.

Further, if the publication talks about governmental policy changes rather than medicine, the agency would generally not allow it unless it was for public relations (PR) purposes. This is generally known to be the policy of all government agencies.

I suspect his article is part of a PR campaign. If true, it would likely be one of two things: 1) to counter VHA’s recent negative press and current Congressional investigations; or 2) to actually propose that U.S. health care providers emulate VA’s system and delivery of care.

Here is a recent press release from the head of VHA, Dr. Robert Petzel on the health care issue dated 9/9/2013.

Your Assignment

My goal in this post is to give you enough facts to do your own research. Check out both sides and let me know what you think. Either email me directly (Contact page) or post a comment below.

I will write about this on Monday.


My preliminary take on it is as follows:

The goal of this campaign appears to be to sell the American public the claim that veterans are universally treated well while in VA care because VA saved $1 million while blowing through billions.

I think the real question is this. Should taxpayer dollars be used to finance VA’s propaganda campaign if indeed this is one?


Learn more about the issues:

Suspended and Unlicensed VA Physicians Receive Pay Bonuses (by Eric Katz, Government Executive)

GAO: VA Gave Doctors Bonus Pay without a Clear Link to Performance (by Steve Vogel, Washington Post)

VA Health Care: Actions Needed to Improve Administration of the Provider Performance Pay and Award Systems (GAO) (pdf)

VA Office Gave Bonuses While Disability Claims Piled Up (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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  1. I would not take my dog to another VA after 20 years of watching it go downhill. They do everything to deny procedures or pay for services. Even placed a dangerously incorrect diagnosis in my medical record and refuse to correct or state I object Legally and medically have NO rights. Also, treated like garbage.
    VA model…NO WAY!!!

  2. I have not seen the entire VA health system, but I have seen the Hospitals in Oklahoma City, Nashville, and Honolulu. The one in OKC was a nightmare, I saw my dad wait for hours to see a doctor, and while he did get good treatment when he was finally seen, I think waiting all that time after a heart attack took years off his life. The one in Nashville was much better in size, but most of the people there could care less if he got help or not.
    I was very hesitant when I applied for VA health care after I retired in 2003. I had seen how my father was treated, and wasn’t sure I wanted to go through that nightmare. However from the time I stepped in the door of the Honolulu medical center I was treated with dignity and respect. The staff welcomed me with a smile and I was ask many times if I needed help. I am always seen promptly for my appointments and if the wait for an appointment is going to be to long they always offer to have me see a doctor at a local hospital.
    I think this is the model that all VA medical facilities should follow and if Obama care was like this, there would not be so many people against it.

  3. The medical services I have received have been first rate. The problem is continuity of care. While my LNP is pretty good, I never see the same Doctor twice. One other point is that despite the claims of good service, they refuse to provide more than 50 Sugar Test strips for a 90 day period, claiming that despite what my Doctor says, I do not need to check blood sugar as much more often every other day. My Doctor recommends 3 to 4 times a day.

  4. I have a Primary Care Doctor at The Perry Point VA Med Ctr Cecil County Maryland. She has always been concerned, responsive and not affraid to tell me off if I’m not following her guidance. Overall I rate my experience with the VA High, However Perry Point is a smaller facility with fewer Patients. I have found the people at the Baltimore VA Medical Hospital, Rude, none communicative, Your told to arrive, just to be seen an hour after your appointment schedule. The Bigger facilities need to be More Like the Army, Navy and Air Force Facilities. I feel the Military is the role they should follow. Nationalize Health care, eliminate Health Insurance and TAKE care of people.

  5. No, not Belize…..There, the people are either filthy rich or dirt pool, begging for food….no inbetween…the saddest, most pathetic country I ever visited.

  6. What America NEEDS is government managed single payer health insurance, which mixes together just the right amounts of socialist management with private enterprise health care delivery.

  7. Dr. Itani obviously lives and works in a bubble. This is the same behavior every senior leader at the VA (both VBA and VHA) have…selective memory. Not only is he grossly misinformed but he is attempted to persuade people to agreement with tainted information.

    I challenge him and others to sit down and review the 20 YEARS of audits, investigations, and reports by the GAO, the VA-OIG and the union with me – and to find anywhere they may state that the VA health system “is a model for the transformation of American medicine in the 21st century.”

    Take a moment and look through my petition and the cover letter that is posted on the petition site. Not only is he wrong, but his endorsement smacks of yet another “incentive” payment.

  8. I have NEVER threatened to depart the USA over any political development, YET. But, if control of all US health care were place under the VA system or anything even vaguely similar, I am off to Costa Rico, Australia or some Western European nation like a flash.

    1. After reading this, seeing the lack of media coverage of DC on 9/11 and the general state of this sad nation…I’m thinking Belize! It is wonderful there and at least those who BS are up front about it.

      1. Lauren, before you really consider Belize, do some in-depth research into how the foreigners are treated. You can live well there except you will pay the police on a regular basis for “protection”! I heve read where one American who moved there refused to pay and was arrested for illegal drugs found in his house planted by the police. I visited there on a cruise and saw armed guards stationed outside the door of the banks. I don’t want to ever go there again. I wil never visit another country that is not a possession of the united States. You are at the mercy of their legal system and our government is powerless to do anything. I personally saw a setup where a passenger on a cruise was offered some grass while he was off the ship. As soon as the deal was completed, the police materialized and slapped cuffs on him. The ship had to leave without him and his wife. I am just guessing but I will bet he was allowed to leave after he paid the right person a hefty fine. My point to all of this is to beware when visiting a foreign country. I will never do it again.

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