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When the U.S. Government created a Cabinet-level department to take on the awesome responsibility of caring for the needs of those who have served in the Armed Forces, no one could possibly have foreseen the number of clinics and hospitals that would be needed to care for an unknown number of patients. Also unforeseen was the number of employees that would be needed to fully staff those clinics and hospitals.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs – VA (formerly the Veterans Administration) has never been sufficiently staffed nor fully funded. Unfortunately, as the number of veterans increased, the number of hospitals and outpatient clinics needed to take care of the ever-growing veteran population did not also increase.
Additionally, the salaries for highly trained physicians, surgeons and competent nurses employed by the VA has not attracted a sufficient number of competent medical staff.
The results of inadequate infrastructure and under-qualified medical personnel has brought us to the point that the VA is often times lacking sufficient doctors to provide the care needed. The answer, of course, is outsourcing some health care needs to the civilian medical facilities.
When President Donald Trump recently showed a sincere desire to see that veterans would have options for their health care, veterans were quickly filled with the hope that health care by the VA would improve.
The “Choice” program was an example of how outsourcing health care to civilian doctors would work. The Choice program was to end in August of this year, but was extended as a permanent option for VA health care.
It appears that veterans have been misled.
Secretary of the VA David Shulkin told the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in June that “unless funds were transferred into the (Choice) account, the program could be bankrupt before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2017).”
Secretary Shulkin also stated that: “We now have too little money in the Choice account, which we’re working to solve […] with legislative authority to replenish funds into the Choice account. We have enough money to get us through the end of the fiscal year; if we could balance the accounts correctly we could make it through to the end of the year. If there is no action at all by Congress, then the Choice program will dry up by mid-August.”
Unfortunately, our Congress is presently in a state of chaos; the losing party is still whining and moaning about losing the Presidential election and they are opposing everything President Trump is trying to do. Veterans’ care is no doubt the very last thing on their minds.
Opponents of this idea believe it more important to increase the infrastructure of the Veterans Affairs facilities across the country, in order to accommodate more of the increased medical requirements and to provide the veterans easier access to VA medical treatment.
It seems to veterans that when the government seeks funds for programs of seemingly “less” importance, the first place they look for the funds is within the Department of Veterans Affairs budget.
The VA continues to “drop the ball” when it comes to taking prompt and appropriate care of the veterans. The number of veterans requiring medical care grows daily. The VA should build more full-service medical facilities, or at least expand existing facilities, in order that they that can provide, at the least, specialty care units like eyes, ears and dental care.
Veterans with whom I speak on a daily basis are expressing extreme frustration with the VA; they seem to be on the verge of throwing in the towel. Some have hinted that they can no longer cope with the VA’s obvious lack of concern for their well-being.
Congress needs to cease and desist its constant opposition with President Trump’s agenda – making America great again, and join the President and the Department of Veterans Affairs in creating a medical outsourcing program that is viable; one that the civilian medical community can fully support.
Historically, Congress hasn’t been quick to approve legislation involving veterans. It took them longer than a century to approve the concurrent receipt of retired pay and VA disability compensation
A worthless money-saving piece of legislation, introduced in 1978, was passed regarding the VA Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement Program. However, the bill was blatantly unfair to the VA patients.
It is the humble opinion of this writer (one of the thousands of permanently disabled veterans) that the authorization of the outsourcing of health care to civilian facilities is not within sight, at least for the near future.
Veterans do not want to be a burden; they just seek the best possible medical care this country can provide. After all, they have earned it!
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, the USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.