VA Cited for Neglecting Follow-Up Treatment for Depressed Vets

VA Cited for Neglecting Follow-Up Treatment for Depressed Vets

10) Veterans Administration Doctor
Wikimedia Commons
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

The embattled Veterans Affairs Department is once again under scrutiny for potentially violating agency guidelines when treating patients—this time, failing to ensure that veterans with depression are receiving sufficient follow-up care after being prescribed anti-depressant medication.

That’s the conclusion of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO reviewed patients being treated for depression at six separate VA medical centers and found that after the veterans received anti-depressants, their doctors did not conduct follow-up appointments within four to six weeks, as the VA requires

Related: VA Wastes Millions, But Still Wants More as Vets Wait for Care

In its review, the GAO said that among all patients whose records were reviewed—almost none of them received check ups with doctors in the required time after they were given anti-depressant medication.

"Given the debilitating effect that depression can have on veterans' quality of life, VA's monitoring of veterans with [depression] is critical to ensuring they receive care that is associated with positive health care outcomes," GAO director of health care Randall Williamson said in congressional testimony this week. He went on to criticize the VA for not following its own guidelines to assure veterans receive sufficient treatment.

“This work illustrates, once again, a continuing pattern of VHA's [Veterans Health Administration] noncompliance with its own policies and established procedures,” Randall Williamson, the GAO's director of health care said in congressional testimony last week.

Separately, the GAP flagged the VA’s Behavioral Health Autopsy Program which is used to collect data on veterans that have committed suicide in order to inform policy decisions, saying it is plagued with inaccuracies.

Auditors said that the system had incorrect dates of death—sometimes off by one day, sometimes off by a whole year. The GAO said this made it nearly impossible to assess what kind of treatment they were provided.

Special Tax Break Zones Defined for All 50 States

Workers guide steel beams into place at a construction site in San Francisco, California September 1, 2011.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
© Robert Galbraith / Reuters
By Michael Rainey

The U.S. Treasury has approved the final group of opportunity zones, which offer tax incentives for investments made in low-income areas. The zones were created by the tax law signed in December.

Bill Lucia of Route Fifty has some details: “Treasury says that nearly 35 million people live in the designated zones and that census tracts in the zones have an average poverty rate of about 32 percent based on figures from 2011 to 2015, compared to a rate of 17 percent for the average U.S. census tract.”

Click here to explore the dynamic map of the zones on the U.S. Treasury website. 

Map of the Day: Affordable Care Act Premiums Since 2014

FILE PHOTO: A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro
MIKE BLAKE
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Axios breaks down how monthly premiums on benchmark Affordable Care Act policies have risen state by state since 2014. The average increase: $481.

Obamacare Repeal Would Lead to 17.1 Million More Uninsured in 2019: Study

A small group of demonstrators stand outside of of a hotel before former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, president of the The Heritage Foundation, speaks at a "Defund Obamacare Tour" rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.  August 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Nate
© Nathan Chute / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

A new analysis by the Urban Institute finds that if the Affordable Care Act were eliminated entirely, the number of uninsured would rise by 17.1 million — or 50 percent — in 2019. The study also found that federal spending would be reduced by almost $147 billion next year if the ACA were fully repealed.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about the budget at the White House in Washington
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Michael Rainey

Mick Mulvaney has been running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since last November, and by all accounts the South Carolina conservative is none too happy with the agency charged with protecting citizens from fraud in the financial industry. The Hill recently wrote up “five ways Mulvaney is cracking down on his own agency,” and they include dropping cases against payday lenders, dismissing three advisory boards and an effort to rebrand the operation as the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection — a move critics say is intended to deemphasize the consumer part of the agency’s mission.

Mulvaney recently scored a small victory on the last point, changing the sign in the agency’s building to the new initials. “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not exist,” Mulvaney told Congress in April, and now he’s proven the point, at least when it comes to the sign in his lobby (h/t to Vox and thanks to Alan Zibel of Public Citizen for the photo, via Twitter).