The Obama administration said Saturday it will allow more veterans to obtain health care at private hospitals and clinics in an effort to improve their treatment.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki also said VA facilities are enhancing capacity of their clinics so veterans can get care sooner. In cases where officials cannot expand capacity at VA centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said.
Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for this policy change as the VA confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers.
The directive issued Saturday should make it easier for veterans to get medical care at non-VA facilities, according to an agency spokeswoman.
VA spent about $4.8 billion last year on medical care at non-VA hospitals and clinics, spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said. That amounts to about 10 percent of health-care costs for the Veterans Health Administration, the agency’s health-care arm.
It was not clear how much the new initiative would cost, Dillon said.
— Associated Press
A wildfire burning in rugged terrain in a northern Arizona canyon grew significantly because of fires intentionally set by crews to rob the blaze of its natural forest fuels, officials said Saturday.
Crews have mostly completed burnout operations on the key northern flank of the Slide Fire and are preparing to make similar protection efforts on the fire’s western end. The burnout operations conducted Friday night by fire crews contributed to the heavy smoke over Sedona and Flagstaff.
“They are making progress. Having the humidity and cooler temperatures was certainly very helpful. But we are by no means done yet,” Coronado National Forest Service information officer Gerry Perry said.
There was a chance of thunderstorms Saturday, potentially bringing much-needed moisture. But if such a storm did not produce any rain, its winds could fan the fire. The size of the human-caused fire had reached 16 square miles by Saturday morning. It had grown nearly five square miles since the latest report on its size.
— Associated Press
Police: Teen kills cab driver after fare dispute: A teenager who thought a Pennsylvania taxi driver was taking a long route to charge him extra money has been accused of killing the driver, police said. Aazis Richardson, 16, was charged with murder and robbery after admitting the crime to police, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Scranton, Pa., police. The body of Vincent Darbenzio, the driver, was found in his taxi with bullet wounds to his head. Richardson told police that Darbenzio had ignored his suggested short cuts. The teen “started to get mad and felt the cab driver was trying to rip him off,” the complaint said. He said he told Darbenzio to pull over and then shot him twice in the back of the head, the complaint said.
Bible college president faces charges: The president and founder of Cathedral Bible College in Marion, S.C., faces federal charges that he made international students work long hours with little pay by threatening their legal status. The Sun News of Myrtle Beach and WBTW reported that bond was set at $250,000 at a hearing Friday for Reginald Wayne Miller. Under the terms of his bond, he is not allowed to visit the college’s campus or communicate with current or former foreign students.
— From news services