A recent study found that 1 in 10 veterans is uninsured. While the Veteran’s Administration (VA) is ostensibly designed to care for anyone who has served our country in the military, veterans who try to avail themselves of the VA’s services are often met with long delays due to bureaucratic red tape. Even when vets finally finish the paperwork, many find that the care they need is not available due to the lack of funding for the VA. Should funding for the Veteran’s Administration be a mandatory part of the federal budget?
As the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran and the wife of a current member of the military, I will try not to vent. However, even Americans who have not had any contact with the VA would probably agree with me that the VA is a broken, inefficient organization. Veterans wait months, often years, for claims to be processed or to be seen by a VA health-care professional--this is especially troubling considering the increasing number of troops returning to the States with neurological and psychological symptoms that demand immediate attention. What is interesting, though, is that the collections division of the VA is extremely efficient. If a veteran takes advantage of GI Bill benefits and then has to withdraw from school because of a deployment, the VA will send out a collection notice for the book stipend (an amount between $250-$500) within forty-eight hours. Ironic, isn't it, that they can be so efficient in one area and not in the most important areas?
While we, as a nation, have an obligation to take care of our veterans, and the federal budget certainly needs to include mandatory funding for veterans' care, the VA should not be the sole recipient of those funds. They have proven since World War II that they simply cannot provide the best service to our servicemen. Instead, I would like to see more private organizations that have been successful in treating veterans compete for the funding. The Wounded Warrior Project has worked miracles for many seriously injured men and women. Similarly, private clinics and research labs have made immense progress in developing treatment for PTSD, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and other "modern combat wounds." For example, the article from the link below demonstrates that researchers from Boston University have made significant strides in linking neurological disease resulting from combat blasts to the same disease that affects some professional athletes who play high-impact sports and who later commit suicide. This important research has immense implications for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Currently, the VA is treating many of those veterans with narcotics which can lead to severe depression and suicide. Boston University's research shows that if a serviceman or woman has the type of brain disease that they have identified, it cannot be treated psychologically. And yet, taxpayer dollars continue to go to an organization like the VA that might actually be hindering our troops from seeing improvement in their physical and mental health.
As it stands, the VA receives mandatory (though inadequate) funding, which means the VA is part of the permanent budget (I suppose that might change at the drop of a vote, but the enthusiasm with which Obama's 2009 VA budget increase proposal was met makes loss of mandatory funding unlikely).
2010 Budget: $112.8 billion (total including collections) – $55.9 billion in discretionary funding (including collections) and $56.9 billion in mandatory funding (Office of Management and Budget)
Individuals who risk their lives, bodies and happiness for the needs of the country must have every possible support and benefit the country can give them, as was proved by the post-World War II consolidation of veterans departments and implementation of expanded benefits. It was confirmed by President H.W. Bush in 1989 with the creation of the VA Cabinet post. The American tradition of caring for military personnel goes back to Colonial days and was part of post-Revolution and post-Civil War social action.
My husband's grandfather just passed away and was a decorated veteran of the US Navy during WWII. Our family was constantly frustrated by the lack of care and considerations given to our veterans. His hearing was damaged due to an explosion during the war, but it was decades before he was able to get help with his hearing and related medical expenses. Later in life he developed more serious health problems and had to visit a VA hospital that was about an hour away. Unfortunately the hospital was not open seven days a week and couldn't handle all of his problems. My father in law often had to drive him to a hospital eight hours away at their own expense to get the proper treatment. Outside of the cost and inconvenience, that long of a trip on a ninety year old man is very difficult. When he couldn't make the trips, he had to visit closer hospitals that provided the necessary services, but had to pay for those expenses because he "chose" not to utilize the VA's services.
I realize that there is not an endless supply of money, but there are a multitude of frivolous projects the government throws millions of dollars at every day while the veterans that put their lives on the line to protect our freedom are not treated with the respect that they have earned and deserve.
I agree with Post #2 concerning the government covering the medical expenses for veterans - medical expenses incurred because of their military service. In addition, I believe the government should also assist veterans in the form of programs to help them be retrained and/or find jobs when they return to civilian life. They sacrificed for us in a number of ways and we owe it to them. This means we, the taxpayers, must sacrifice also to ensure veterans are looked after.
A thorough audit of the government's expenditures will no doubt uncover wasteful spending on certain useless programs. Those programs should be cut or eliminated and the money redirected to veterans programs. The decency of a society is reflected in how well they treat the men and women who served their country...how well they've treated them after they've come home.
We should most definitely not dispose of our benefits to veterans through the Veterans Administration, however, it seems that current government funding for the program is inadequate. The current War on Terror is especially causing problems, and it has been reported that the VA is currently backed up with 1.2 million disability claims. While President Bush did his best during his administration to increase budgeting for the VA medical care, requesting $38.7 billion, it seems that even that was inadequate. Thus, since it seems that the government cannot adequately care for its troops alone, funding also needs to begin coming from the private sector, especially the nation's most wealthy.
As I understand it, the VA funding already is a mandatory part of the budget. I doubt that is likely to change. Most people will agree that those who risk their lives to preserve ours should be cared for. In fact, there are many people who would like to see the mandatory funding increased. There is simply not enough money for mental health care and other care facilities. The men and women who protect our rights and our borders shouldn't have to worry about finding adequate care when they return home.
The government should have to pay for anything medical that is related to a veteran's military service. Due to our debilitating federal deficit, this might mean cutting something else somewhere--how about the drug war, which has never been successful anyway? Or I suppose we could spend less on war in the first place.
I agree with everything you have to say scarlet. I am a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project and all the great things they have accomplished. It is just downright sad to me that organizations like these were born out of necessity and not generosity, and that even more are needed.