Op-ed: Fixing The Department Of Veterans’ Affairs
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Everyone in the country knows, by now, that the VA has enormous problems! The Veterans who rely on the VA for health care are greatly affected by these problems; some are committing suicide and some are needlessly dying for lack of care!
The number of Veterans relying on VA for health care is increasing at an alarming rate; actually there are more VA patients now than the VA can properly take care of! Additionally, Congress has been (historically) overly stingy with funds for VA’s budget requests! Something must be done!
This permanently disabled Veteran has a few suggestions to offer for consideration by the Congress and the Department Of Veterans’ Affairs. It would be only normal for some disabled Veterans to disagree with these recommendations, but in the long run these changes might just allow the VA to provide quicker and better health care, especially for our most severely disabled Veterans!
First: It is recommended that the eligibility requirement for VA Disability Compensation be set at 50% disabled or higher!
Second: Overhaul the VA Disability Rating System! The short of it is that if a Veteran is not rated by the VA to be at least 50% disabled, how can that Veteran be considered “disabled?” Injured and/or ill, yes – but disabled, perhaps not!
The sense of the Congress (as of 2004) is that VA patients rated 50% or higher represent the most seriously disabled Veterans. In 2004, the Congress therefore, agreed to permit this group of Veterans to receive their earned retirement pay and their awarded VA disability compensation, concurrently (re: The Concurrent Receipt Bill)! Some of the Veterans rated 40% disabled should probably be re-rated to 50% (loss of limbs, for example)!
That being said it is recommended that the VA’s disability ratings from 10% through 40% be discontinued. Before you start sending hate mail this fact should be understood: Retirees rated 10%-40% receive VA disability compensation, but every penny of that compensation is deducted from their retirement pay. So the only reason for those Veterans to waive some of their retirement in order to receive VA compensation would be the saving of taxes paid! Veterans with disabilities less than 50% would continue to receive treatment at VA clinics and hospitals.
Third: It is recommended that the eligibility requirement for additional benefits from the VA be increased from 30% disabled to 50% disabled. Current benefits being received would be “grandfathered in!”
Fourth: It is recommended that the eligibility requirement for VA Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement be increased from 30% disabled to 50% disabled! However, the reimbursements should be paid to the Veteran, in cash, on the same day as their appointments. EFT payments are unreasonably far behind! Some needy VA patients need “same day” reimbursement just to make the trip back to their homes!
Fifth: It is recommended that the eligibility requirement for the “Veterans’ Choice Program” (whenever it is finalized & implemented) be for Veterans VA rated 50% or higher. (This would be automatic if the ratings below 50% are discontinued).
Sixth: Injuries/illnesses incurred during combat operations, that are less than 50% disabling, should probably be compensated by an appropriate, one-time stipend!
It should be obvious that if the above recommendations were to be accepted, a great deal of VA funds would be freed-up for other use within the VA’s Health Care System! The savings in VA disability compensation, VA travel reimbursement, and discontinued additional benefits would be huge!
Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran.He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.