All opinion articles are the opinion of the author and not necessarily of American Military News. If you are interested in submitting an op-ed please email [email protected]
Veterans are dying each and every day, but not just because they have reached the end of their normal life expectancy. Health care for Veterans has been delegated to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, the VA’s growth has not kept pace with the alarmingly high number of VA patients!
For countless decades, the VA has been under-staffed, under-funded, and very inadequately managed. In addition to a lack of sufficient funding, the VA lacks an appropriate number of experienced doctors and an over-abundance of inept managers.
As I daily read about my military brothers and sisters dying before their time, I realize I am reaching that point in time, myself! Unless and until drastic improvements are made within the VA, scores more of these heroes will die, unnecessarily.
The VA is obviously incapable of handling the ever-increasing numbers of patients and the only logical answer is to “outsource” the health care to the civilian clinics/hospitals. For a couple of years, there have been efforts to implement a program entitled “Veterans’ Choice.” Properly organized and managed (including swift reimbursement to the civilian medical community), it would be the answer to at least one of the VA’s problems.
In addition to being permanently disabled (spinal injuries), I am a 20 year retired Navy man. I am eligible for treatment with the VA and also, as a retired military person I am eligible for treatment in military hospitals. However, my residence is 60 miles from a full-service VA facility and the military hospitals are equally too far for me to travel by my own transportation (without long lasting pain caused by more than 120 miles round-trip travel).
Veterans’ Choice would allow us to use health care close to our residences, almost eliminating any “wait times” for appointments. It would provide us health care far more quickly than provided by VA. It would also save VA a huge amount of dollars normally spent for VA Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement.
Proper management and swift payment to the civilian facility providing the service would be achieved through the Veterans’ Choice Program. However, many more deaths will occur if we don’t get this program “up and running!”
A select Congressional Committee should oversee this issue and ensure that appropriate legislation is swiftly passed.
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.