In the middle of Capitol Hill’s dance with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says it has been forced to find alternative ways to ship mail-order prescriptions to VA patients whose medication is typically delivered by that agency, FedEx, and UPS.
According to a report from CNN, the VA has verified that the change is indeed happening. The veterans group Disabled Vets of America brought up the issue on behalf of patients who had reported considerable delays in receiving their medications via the Postal Service. The hardest hit areas include Detroit, New Jersey, and New York.
"The VA has now confirmed to us that the United States Postal Service (USPS), which is responsible for delivering about 90 percent of all VA mail order prescriptions, has indeed been delayed in delivering these critical medications by an average of almost 25 percent over the past year, with many locations experiencing much more significant delays," Stephen Whitehead, the Disabled Vets of America’s national commander, said in a statement on Monday.
Whitehead claims that the situation is a lose-lose for both the USPS and veterans. To get around this hurdle, the VA was forced to find other delivery services to get medications to veterans, and some of them were left in a bind when their usual monthly prescriptions failed to show up as usual.
“It is simply unacceptable that America’s veterans, particularly those who were injured or made ill in defense of this country, should face the prospect of not receiving necessary medications in a timely manner considering such delays can be the difference between health and sickness, or even worse,” Whitehead said.
“Moreover, millions of veterans also rely on the post office to deliver claims decisions, hearing notifications and other critical messages from the VA, all of which must be timely to ensure veterans receive the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice.”
Who’s at fault?
Depending on who you talk to, the finger-pointing goes in different directions. In his statement, Whitehead didn’t bring up the pandemic as a factor, but a regional Veterans Administration official told CNN that the VA’s typical load for mail-order prescriptions has spiked in recent months. The official reasoned that, like many other operations across the country, VA hospitals and other facilities had gone on lockdown, preventing vets from getting their refills in person.
However, VA spokesperson Christina Noel defended the department’s efforts to CNN, saying it "has always used a variety of prescription delivery methods to ensure timely delivery.” She further stressed that the medications delivered via the Postal Service "are averaging less than three days delivery time."
"More than 95 percent of VA prescriptions delivered via UPS next day service have been on time," she said, adding that the department "continually monitors prescription delivery times throughout the country."