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VA reform: Free our veterans

May 26. 2014 8:40PM

Since Manchester’s Veterans Administration Medical Center lost its full-service designation in a cost-cutting move in 2000, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation fought to have it restored. Given what is already known about the still unfolding VA scandal, a better option would be to help New Hampshire’s veterans receive medical care outside of the VA system.

Some complain that New Hampshire veterans have to drive out of state for certain types of medical care because Manchester’s facility does not offer everything. The truth is that many Granite Staters drive to Boston for specialty care, too. In Texas and New Jersey, veterans drive much farther for in-state care than most New Hampshire veterans drive for out-of-state care. The real issue is not in-state vs. out-of-state; it is that we put veterans into a government-run, heavily bureaucratic system.

We should let veterans shop for care instead. Why would we consign our veterans to an inefficient, government bureaucracy — and make them drive past local hospitals to get to government facilities — when we could free them to use doctors and hospitals closer to home?

First District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte have sponsored legislation in the past that would have the VA either provide a full-service medical center for New Hampshire or contract with hospitals to let veterans get care outside of the system. Former Rep. Frank Guinta supported the same legislation when he was in Congress.

Manchester’s VA Medical Center does contract with Concord Hospital for some services. Why not expand that? At this point it seems obvious that veterans would get a better deal if we switched to a system that would let them shop for services instead of sticking with one that consigns them to government-run hospitals.

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