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VA Introduces New Program To Help Vets Seek Health Care From Outside Doctors And More Local News

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The Veterans Health Administration is implementing a major new program Thursday that will allow more veterans to see private doctors outside the system. KPBS takes a look at how the MISSION program will be rolled out here in San Diego.

Plus, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography study has found microplastics far below the ocean’s surface; a cross-border sewage fix may be coming; and the San Diego International Fringe Festival is back with the beautiful, bizarre and the unexpected.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Good morning. It's Thursday, June 6th. I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego News matters today. The Va is rolling out a major new program that will allow more veterans to see a doctor outside the agency. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says, Va officials from Washington to San Diego hope to learn from past mistakes

Speaker 2: 00:22 starting this week. The mission act is changing the way the VA works with anti doctors. Va San Diego Director Robert Smith says some services are brand new

Speaker 3: 00:31 under the Michigan Act. There is an urgent care benefit where veterans can seek care at an urgent care center, a contracted urgent care center, um, with no pre authorization or referral, they can simply drop by and uh, get care for, you know, a bee sting, uh, yeah.

Speaker 2: 00:47 Or bronchitis or a stomach flu. Just go right to urgent care. Veterans still have to be enrolled in VA care to qualifying. The mission act is a followup on the choice act. Va Secretary Robert Wilkie says, Congress quickly pass choice in 2014 in the wake of the wait time scandal where veterans languished for months on long waiting lists and Phoenix and other vas around the country,

Speaker 4: 01:10 veteran's choice was a very hasty response to the problem in Phoenix. This department was given 90 days to change its direction, change its ethos, and that was absolutely impossible to do.

Speaker 2: 01:26 There were problems with billing and lost referrals. Some doctors drop down this time. Congress gave the VA a year to work out the details of the mission act choice also relied heavily on being managed by private contracts.

Speaker 5: 01:38 Yes, ma'am. If you don't mind, I'll let me put you on a brief hold. I'm just gonna check with the point of contact in podiatry. Okay.

Speaker 2: 01:46 The VA is taking back some of that control. Tasha Jones is a former army medic who works as a section chief in customer service.

Speaker 5: 01:53 Uh, it is a lot of work. It is, but as we have the resources and the staff that we need, I'm, I'm confident that the VA can do the things like customer service and care coordination better. I'm actually excited that it's coming back.

Speaker 2: 02:06 Va San Diego hired 60 new people to manage the program. Many of them schedulers like Jones who arrange appointments and answer billing questions. Yes. The Va is also deploying new software to make it easier for doctors this year. Patient records with the Va VA says the program roughly doubles the number of veterans who can go outside the VA for primary care or mental health. Veterans only have to show their wait time was longer than 20 days or they live more than a half an hour drive from the Va facility.

Speaker 3: 02:36 Those are a small number of veterans though, so about 90 95% of the veterans who were under our care would still have the bulk of their care or their coordination of care provided by the Va.

Speaker 2: 02:48 Smith says the VA is banking on most people's sticking with VA care even with a year to prepare. It's all coming down to the wire. I interviewed the head of VA San Diego Monday. Some of the details about which providers would be part of the new urgent care benefit still hadn't been nailed down.

Speaker 3: 03:05 Oh, there's been a lot of contracting that's been going on in the background and kind of filling in the gaps and I actually have not yet seen it. I have a promise of an email later today. Have not seen the complete list for the San Diego community. Okay. And so if you're, but it will be there. June 6th

Speaker 2: 03:22 friends groups lobbied heavily to replace choice with a system more responsive to events like the VA itself. The VFW and other groups are waiting to see what happens after the new program goes live. On Thursday, Steve Walsh KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 03:36 local officials plan to huddle over the next few weeks to pick a strategy to reduce cross border pollution. KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson says local governments appear ready to act.

Speaker 6: 03:47 Corn Auto Mayor Richard Bailey says it's time to choose a plan to fight the persistent cross border pollution spills. He was just one local political leader who made a pitch for action in front of the Environmental Protection Agency's region. Nine administrator, Imperial Beach City Council member Poloma. Giddy says there have been enough studies and it's time to start fixing the problem.

Speaker 7: 04:09 The entire war, Memorial Day weekend was closed in apparel between had 48 closure days this year alone. The south end of imperial beach has been closed every single date in 2019

Speaker 6: 04:20 more than 110 million gallons of sewage stated flows have crossed the border into the United States since April two you a sewage system is unable to cope. Eric Anderson Kpbs News,

Speaker 1: 04:33 a proposal on a new gun safety law was put before a San Diego City Council committee. Wednesday KPBS is Maya troubles. He explains what it means.

Speaker 8: 04:42 It's called the Safe Storage of firearms ordinance and it was approved on a two to one vote to go to the full city council city attorney Mara Elliot crafted the proposed law, which would mean firearms in a home are locked up or disabled by a lock on the trigger when not being carried or controlled by the authorized user. Eliot calls it a common sense effort to reduce instances of accidental shootings and rates of suicide, but how will this be enforced? Elliot equates the law with educating people about the safety benefits of using seat belts. Decades ago.

Speaker 7: 05:14 Now most people use seatbelts but nobody was being pulled over because they didn't have a seatbelt on. They were being pulled over for something else like they were speeding.

Speaker 8: 05:24 Elliot says, if officers in San Diego observe an unsecured firearm while responding to reported crime at a home, it would be a misdemeanor. Maya Treble, C K PBS news.

Speaker 1: 05:35 Minuscule pieces of plastic are pervasive, not just on the ocean surface but well into the deep sea. KPBS science and technology reporter Shelina Chut Lonnie says, new research from Uc San Diego shows deep sea animals could be at risk

Speaker 7: 05:52 at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, researcher and Nella Troy has spent over two years working with a deep diving robot. She's been using it to scoop out water for Monetary Bay.

Speaker 9: 06:03 We want it to look at the vertical extent of microplastic pollution.

Speaker 7: 06:07 Your plastics are tiny, less than five millimeters in length and include things like beads and face wash. And when Troy looked deep below the ocean surface, she found lots of them

Speaker 9: 06:18 and we also found them in the bodies and guts of animals. Every animal specimen that we looked at

Speaker 7: 06:24 and some researchers like Jenny Brandon of San Diego's birch aquarium have been able to collect jars and jars of this stuff. She's been looking at the impact these materials can have on ocean animals. It's actually probably going to be capable of entering any level of the food chain. And plastic also has chemicals that are toxic. We eat seafood and so the more fish that are eating plastic, the more humans are eating plastic. Humans are still too big. Do you feel that effect right now? She says, but it can certainly get to a level that it does start to affect us and because of that script's researcher and Nella Troy says she thinks there needs to be more studies on the impacts of these plastics on different types of animals. Shelina chat, Lonnie Kpps News,

Speaker 1: 07:08 the meatless impossible burger is becoming increasingly impossible to find as capital public is. Randall wide explains it now has so many fans. Restaurants can't get enough to go around

Speaker 10: 07:20 if you haven't tried one. It's hard to impress just how much the latest version of the impossible burger mimics ground beef, but it's entirely plant based. California restaurants were among the first to adopt the Burger and remain its top retailers. Now at the height of its popularity, some are dropping impossible. Well, why they can't get it. Sacramento's Hook and ladder executive chef Anthony Scuderi put impossible on his menu. As soon as it became available, it created a following. People seek it out. They knew that we had it and they came here for it, but now he's cooked up a housemaid vegan alternative and he's clear about whether imposible will make a return. Never again. You know it's gone. Part of scoot Aries frustration comes from bay area based impossible foods announcement this year. It had teamed up with Burger King to sell the patty distributors and chefs. We spoke with blame that partnership for the shortage.

Speaker 11: 08:16 There's just no way that burger king is, is sucking up all of our product. It's just the numbers don't bear that out.

Speaker 10: 08:24 Impossible is Rachel Conrad says supply problems are hitting everyone, including the limited number of burger king locations now carrying it. Yeah,

Speaker 11: 08:32 certainly. Yeah. There are many days when when they've run out of it. Yeah.

Speaker 10: 08:35 Cute. She says the company just raised $300 million and is working to meet demand. Something that could become more challenging as it's launched in grocery stores later this year in Sacramento. I'm Randall White,

Speaker 1: 08:49 San Diego International Fringe Festival kicks off at seventh year tonight and its new home base bell ballpark KPBS arts reporter bed like Amando has this preview. San Diego international fringe launches a New Year with quite a few changes. Homebase and multiple venues or in Bellville Park, the number of artists performing as much smaller and you won't find any printed programs as the festival tries to go green, but there are still plenty of shows to choose from during the 11 day event. Laura Oakley is part of Canada circus company from New Zealand. I think friends really allows artists to just like go out and alum and try something new and different. And I think it's such a great platform, especially for like emerging artists coming from Wellington. Our company is only like, you know, just under a year old. So while our Wellington fringe festival was like an incredible platform to launch off off in, you know, now we're here.

Speaker 1: 09:40 Sorry. It's an incredible opportunity for us. The company appears as part of San Diego Fringes Exchange Program with Wellington Fringe San Diego fringe offers dozens of artists performing a diverse array of shows that includes circus music, drama and pole dancing at multiple venues through June 16th Betha Mondo KPBS news, the fridge comedy nonfiction looks to the publishing world and a core teta friends KPBS film critic Beth like a Mondo has this review of the film opening this weekend at landmarks hill crest cinemas. Only the French could pull off a film that's so smartly in charmingly debates the future of literature in a digital age while also exploring the comic complexities of human relationships. Writer, director, Olivia Sas casually points at our dependence on technology and has characters argue whether tweets or the new Haiku or Harbinger's of our inability to write. At one point a publisher can't get over people reading books on a cell phone, so you'll smell food [inaudible] for them.

Speaker 1: 10:41 Where we see Doug said, Doug is all these the leave, so smartphone, the nonfiction is a sharply scripted, engaging work that makes us think about how we consume the written word. It also allows us to enjoy the company of a quartet of characters trying to deal with change in their lives. Betha Mondo KPBS news for weeks. Los Angeles City and county officials have been saying that homelessness is getting worse. On Monday that was confirmed. La released its annual homeless count show you a 12% increase in homelessness county wide and an even higher 16% increase within the city of Los Angeles. KCRW Santa Scott had this story for the California report. Nearly 59,000 people now sleep on the streets of La County and two thirds live within la city limits. The numbers were up in nearly every category. La Mayor Eric Garcetti says the city will offer free legal services to tenants facing eviction starting this fall, and officials are studying ways to create faster, cheaper, affordable housing, but he also said state lawmakers are the ones with the power to expand rent control, which is key to stemming the crisis

Speaker 12: 11:48 when people can increase the rents by 10 20 50% in a year. That's expensive for all of us. When those folks can't make the rent and become homeless

Speaker 1: 11:56 without state and federal measures to expand renter protections and affordable housing. Garcetti said local officials are left to doing a mop up job. He said Los Angeles could even see another increase in homelessness next year for the California report. I'm Anna Scott. Honesty, it's one of the many qualities Democrats will look for in the 2020 presidential candidate, but it has that value lost importance with president Trump and the White House capitol. Public radio's politifact reporter Chris Nichols explores the topic.

Speaker 13: 12:27 Some say we live in a post fact world, a place where truthiness from our politicians is good enough.

Speaker 14: 12:34 You want to know what this means? You know who to call Stephen Colbert, truthiness, Noun, the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support. Now,

Speaker 13: 12:46 Democratic presidential hopefuls like California Senator Kamala Harris, blame president Trump for degrading values like honesty,

Speaker 15: 12:54 Democrats with this president. It's a fight for truth itself.

Speaker 13: 13:02 Is there a struggle among Democrats on whether to support a candidate who could beat Trump but might also be squishy with the facts? I spoke with delegates this weekend at the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco. They told me they do want a candidate who tells the truth, but they wrestled with how important that quality will be. In 2020 Elizabeth Talbot of Stanislaus County is backing Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Speaker 16: 13:31 So I think that while people believe that truthfulness is important, I think that there is a wider array of what is considered truth, uh, for more people or what or what they would tolerate. Then we would have prior to 2016

Speaker 13: 13:47 a wider array of what's considered truth. Talbot's says, the president is to blame

Speaker 16: 13:52 when the bar gets continually lowered and lowered and lowered and lowered. You can still be above that bar and still be a below. What's, what would have been acceptable to people before

Speaker 13: 14:03 Robert Nelson of Pasadena backs Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. And while he doesn't trust Joe Biden, the former vice president and democratic front runner, Nelson says that won't stop him from voting for Biden if necessary.

Speaker 17: 14:18 I will support anybody to beat Donald Trump. Go Trump is a fascist. Yep. I have to suck it in and vote for Joe even if he continues to be as disingenuous as he appears to be. I'll have to do that, but I'm not going to like it.

Speaker 13: 14:30 Kathy Frank Ivig is a former director of surveys at CBS News and now works as a polling consultant. She says about two thirds of Americans have historically said truthfulness is a very important quality in a president, but that value often slides when other factors are considered. Honesty in the abstract is something that people want. You start putting it in context of would you rather have someone who who is honest and trustworthy or can win the election? Um, then people start, they give you more nuanced answers. Democratic delegate Joe Create, go have Inyo County is undecided on a candidate before the 2016 election. He says, he naively believed that all voters wanted a candidate. That was completely honest. I realized that people really want a hundred percent fidelity in emotional honesty and perhaps not so much in factual honesty. Unfortunately, Griego says he's torn about whether he'd support a Democrat who's dishonest. I gotta admit it feels odd saying it out loud because I'd like to believe that. No, I just want to vote for the person who is the most honest person. Hopefully he says the party's nominee is someone with integrity and he won't need to make that choice in 2020 in Sacramento. I'm Chris Nichols. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. For more KPBS podcasts, go to k pbs.org/podcasts.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.