VA secretary to take firsthand look at veterans’ access to care in Alaska

VA secretaryANCHORAGE –Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is in Alaska this week to see veteran care in rural Alaska firsthand. He says there’s work to be done — across the country and right here in Alaska — to better serve veterans.

“We know that across the nation, trust has been compromised with VA, particularly in 2014,” said McDonald during a press conference Tuesday. “We’re going to have to earn it back, one veteran at a time.”

He addressed several issues with the VA system in Alaska, including access to care for veterans in rural areas.

The outpatient clinic in Wasilla hasn’t had a doctor on staff for months. According to an Inspector General review, 39 patients assigned to the clinic died between July 2013 and July 2014, and eight of them received poor access to care.

“This is a national problem,” said McDonald when asked why it’s so hard to fill these positions.

He says he plans to solve the problem by hiring more D.O. doctors, instead of M.D. doctors. McDonald says D.O. doctors generally focus on primary care and are more willing to locate to rural areas. He says of all physicians employed by the VA, only one percent are D.O. doctors.

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