As an expert on health policy, Cynthia Bascetta understands that the first step to solving a problem is an accurate diagnosis. In her role as a top health care expert for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Bascetta has made a career of identifying problems with U.S. health and disability programs, which have led to significant reforms that impact the lives of countless Americans.
Bascetta’s 30-year career in government has been marked by her fights for improved citizen services. Early in her federal tenure, Bascetta fought to make HIV treatment and prevention a federal priority. From 1987 through 1990, she spearheaded GAO’s controversial evaluation of federal HIV programs—highlighting the importance of federal support. At a pivotal time in the early fight against HIV, her reports helped convince Congress and other decision makers that the nation faced an emergency that warranted intensified federal resources, ultimately defending the initial $2 billion that Congress proposed for funding education programs, research, counseling and testing.
In the 1990s, Bascetta led GAO’s work to improve federal disability policy. Specifically, she found that many beneficiaries of Social Security Administration disability programs felt discouraged from seeking meaningful employment. If they did so, they would lose their eligibility for public health insurance, which the recipients often could not afford on their own, even with steady income. Bascetta’s research and recommendations eventually led to important changes, such as the “Ticket to Work” program in 1999, which restored dignity to many of the program’s beneficiaries by allowing them to return to work while keeping their health care benefits.
Bascetta has spent the past decade working on the needs of our nation’s veterans, including critical services such as disability compensation and health care for veterans during the transition from the Department of Defense (DoD) to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Because of her expertise in this area, in March 2007, Bascetta was asked to testify at the first Congressional hearing on the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center. Her work in the DoD and VA documented and revealed that the health and disability problems at Walter Reed were longstanding and systemic. Her thorough and impassioned report prompted both agencies to pay attention to the issues and work to give returning service members the treatment that they deserve.
Bascetta continues to do significant work on other high-profile issues. For example, she discovered serious interruptions in health care for responders who served at Ground Zero on 9/11 and recently issued a report with important recommendations to ensure that future responders are not left vulnerable if they become injured or ill as a result of their service. In response to the widespread problems that followed Hurricane Katrina, Bascetta is looking for ways to better coordinate continuing medical care during a state or local emergency.
In addition to her laudable contributions to our nation’s citizens through her work, Bascetta is also a highly-respected supervisor, leader, mentor and co-worker. Her positive attitude, strong work ethic and motivational personality have garnered the praise of Congress, co-workers and project partners.
If someone were to diagnose the problems with our federal workforce, one problem would be “not enough Cynthia Bascettas.” She has become a shining example of the difference a single person can make in federal service, and has helped countless Americans lead healthier lives.