More Debate Needed on VA Health Care: Physicians and Dentists to Host a Summit

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

We at the National Association of VA Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD) read with interest your June 2 column titled "Brown must talk to Clinton on health." Clearly the issues raised there are of great interest to our members, the doctors who care for our nation's veterans within the Veterans Health Administration.

In fact, we believe that more talking on VA health care needs to take place - more public debate - and we have committed ourselves to doing what we can do to initiate part of it. On Nov. 4 in Washington, NAVAPD will convene a summit to do just that. "With Respect to Health: A Doctors' Summit on VA Health Care" will provide a historic opportunity to bring together VA doctors, members of Congress and the administration, health care policy experts, industry representatives, the media, and other interested parties to discuss the current status of VA health care and options for its future.

This summit was born of a desire to promote an open and frank dialogue with and among those professionals who work on a daily basis in the veterans health care system. These physicians and dentists are the backbone of the system that has been at the forefront of innovative medical procedures and advances, research, and education. The health care of all of our citizens, not just America's veterans, has been enhanced and enriched as a result of the work performed by these doctors within the VA for decades.

Because the VA health care system, like the American health care system in general, is undergoing significant reform, NAVAPD believes that it is in the best interest of patients, doctors and the system in which they meet, to bring doctors themselves to the decision-making table. Further, it is important that the dialogue be conducted in a public forum and that its details be made widely available through the media. It is the goal of this summit to foster that vital exchange of ideas and to advance positively the public policy debate on the future of health care in America.

A national dialogue about what makes good medicine and what results in bad medicine is long overdue. Sarge, we hope that you will be on hand at our summit.

Peggy Ingraham,

NAVAPD legislative director

Dear Peggy:

The sarge strongheartedly supports your pivotal summit. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the vital signs of the VA medical system are vigorous and vibrant. I urge members of Congress to actively participate in this important endeavor, especially those Senate and House docs such as heart surgeon Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, and ophthalmologist and combat pilot John Cooksey, Louisiana Republican.

Former top VA officials such as Sens. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, as well as businessman Harry Walters should also share their valuable insight. …