On Thursday, Governor Mary Fallin will reveal the results of a two-year study that could change the way veterans throughout the nation receive medical and mental health care.
The study recommends shifting much of veteran’s care from the federal level to the state level. And if the recommendations in it are adopted, it could change the way veterans receive care.
For former Oklahoma Department of Veteran’s Affairs Director Pete Reed, the two-year study is a labor of love born out of necessity. He says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is not able to quickly and efficiently fulfill the medical and psychological needs of veterans, so states should step in contracting services out to their own vets.
"If we are looking to ever fix the system, it cannot be done internally through the VA. It's going to have to be done through a partnership with state and private sector healthcare entities,” said Reed. “If they're not willing to do that then they're not serious about fixing the problem."
Under the plan, the state VA would administer the program. That’s the same agency that came under fire after a scathing state audit showing poor morale and a management style based on fear.
“There are peaks and valleys in every state agency in existence over the years,” said Reed. “We had issues with disgruntled employees when I was director of veterans affairs because sometimes certain individuals don't want to change."
Reed says under state control, veterans would receive appointments within 20 days and within 30 miles. He is asking the US Department of Veterans Affairs for $250 million to fund the three-year pilot project.
And if they say no?
"Well what happens if you don't try?” Reed said, “No other state in the nation has attempted this program. Not a one."
Reed says the plan doesn’t replace the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it just streamlines care at a fraction of the cost. The plan will be presented to the state’s congressional delegation. Then, Reed hopes, to the president.