Under pressure to improve care, the Department of Veterans Affairs will allow more veterans to use private medical services to meet growing demands for health care, the department announced.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a brief statement that as part of an expansion of services, veterans will be able to seek care at private clinics and hospitals in areas where the department’s capacity to expand is limited. In such situations, the VA “is increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said. The agency will provide more specifics on these options in the next few days, said Victoria Dillon, a department spokeswoman. It is unclear how much this service expansion will cost. The VA already spends about 10 percent of its budget on private care, which cost $4.8 billion last year.

The new directive comes as Shinseki faces calls for his resignation amid allegations that VA employees have been covering up long wait times for medical care and falsified appointment records to hide the delays. A number of Republicans, at least two Democratic lawmakers and the commander of the American Legion, have called for Shinseki to step down. Twenty-six VA facilities — including sites in Phoenix, San Antonio, and Fort Collins, Colo. — are under federal investigation. Shinseki is expected to present President Obama a preliminary report on the facilities in the coming week.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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