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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

 

VA Takes A Major Step in National CARES Planning Process

August 4, 2003, 08:00:00 AM

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WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi today presented the draft National CARES Plan to the independent CARES Commission, which will play a critical role in assessing the proposed plan for the future of veterans’ health care.

CARES (Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services) is a landmark study of the nation’s largest health care system, operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“VA can effectively manage and implement an important program such as CARES and deliver results for veterans,” said Principi. “These results may come with difficult choices.  As VA enters the process of making these choices in communities across the country, it is important to remember the broad outcomes it seeks – more effective use of VA resources to provide more care, to more veterans, in places where veterans need it the most.”

The draft National Plan is an important milestone in VA’s CARES program to assess veterans’ health care needs and develop a national plan to meet those needs in the future. 

“The draft National Plan’s goals are to find savings and reinvest them in doctors, nurses and modern health care equipment -- resources crucial to direct patient care,” said Dr. Robert H. Roswell, VA's Under Secretary for Health. “It makes sure the decisions we make today and in the future are in line with the health care needs of veterans.  Bottom line -- the draft plan will allow us to avoid imbalances between the size and location of health care facilities and veterans’ demand for care tomorrow.”

The approximately 100-page plan is divided into 20 chapters and has hundreds of pages of appendices.  The draft plan contains key new concepts like Critical Access Hospitals and greater collaboration with community resources to meet veterans’ needs and improve access.  The entire plan can be viewed at http://www.va.gov/CARES.  

The under secretary’s review was built into the CARES planning process to assure it has a national perspective and a sharing of best practices and solutions to provide equity and balance.

In July 1999, a General Accounting Office study found that VA was spending a million dollars a day on unneeded or unused facilities.  CARES was developed to identify the infrastructure VA will need to care for veterans in the 21st century, redirecting resources from unneeded buildings to veterans' care.

 “VA’s mission to provide quality health care for America’s veterans has not changed since its inception.  But how that job is done – at what kind of facilities, where they are located and which types of procedures are used – has seen dynamic change as a result of medical advances, modern health care trends, veteran migrations and other factors,” said Roswell.  “The draft National CARES Plan embodies a national roadmap for managing a vital element of that change: the capacity and placement of facilities, their accessibility and the acute care infrastructure necessary to meet future needs of veterans.”

It is important to note that the draft National CARES Plan is still an interim step of the CARES process.  No final decisions have been made.  The plan now goes to the CARES Commission.  During the three months of commission review and hearings, veterans and other stakeholders will have ample opportunity to comment on the plan before it is presented to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for final decision in December.  

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