Friday, March 6, 2020

Congress worries VA isn't ready to care for growing number of senior, disabled vets

As veterans age and the population of senior veterans grows dramatically in the next eight years, Congress worries the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t prepared for what lawmakers called a “silver tsunami.”
The number of veterans older than 75 enrolled in VA health care is expected to nearly double by 2028, VA leaders told Congress during a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday. About half of the 9 million total veterans who receive care at VA are older than 65.
As the veteran population gets older, their need for care also significantly increases, particularly for those with service-connected disabilities. The number of veterans with service-connected disabilities is expected to increase by more than a third by 2028, such as Vietnam veterans ill from Agent Orange exposure or Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans exposed to other toxins. The demand for long-term care -- anything from help around the house to round-the-clock care, including help eating or bathing -- is expected to rise in particular.
But VA may struggle to meet that demand, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
VA faces workforce shortages for nursing assistants and other jobs, which result in waitlists for long-term care and challenges reaching veterans in rural or remote areas, where about a third of all veterans live, according to Nikki Clowers, managing director of health care at GAO.
VA will need to spend $14 billion annually to keep up with this increasing demand for long-term care, according to GAO. In 2018, VA provided or paid for long-term care for more than half a million veterans.

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