Addressing a gathering of the American Legion veterans group, the President on August 26 said that he will issue nineteen executive orders requiring the VA to implement programs that will improve the timely provision of healthcare to veterans. The President spoke the day after a damning report was issued from the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) and three weeks after he had signed a $16.3 billion bill to overhaul the entire operation of the VA.
Some of the new behavioral healthcare programs are aimed specifically at PTSD research and early detection of PTSD and suicidality. These are areas in which clinical social workers can play a much larger part than is now current: ACSWA research indicates that only about 10% of VA-employed clinical social workers are currently employed in a PTSD-outpatient setting.
Obama’s five priorities for helping veterans are increased funding for behavioral healthcare (11 of the 19 points address this crisis), halting the suicide epidemic, decreasing homelessness, eliminating VA backlog of wait-listed patients, and facilitating home purchases. Some programs will apply to active-duty (Department of Defense) employees as well as veterans whose healthcare services come from the VA.
Addressing the VA-OIG’s finding that VA executives had falsified wait-time data to earn bonuses, the President stated, “If you engage in unethical practices or cover up a serious problem, you should and will be fired.”