Introduction to Report: VA Reform
“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Abraham Lincoln
Do you believe that our United States Military Veterans deserve the best healthcare? In recent years, the news has been filled with reports of scandalous conditions at VA hospitals nationwide, hundreds of thousands of veterans that have died while waiting for care, veterans that have received less than standard treatment from the VA, and a major uptick in veteran suicides based on lack of treatment. Why? The Veterans Administration healthcare system is set up as a socialist healthcare system– and as such can never properly fulfill the promise to our military service members. A system that provides top rate medical care only comes from the private sector.
When government budgets are done, the actual cost of war should be included in the NDAA. That ACTUAL cost should include the cost of taking care of those who serve in those wars. Instead of the piecemeal approach that exists now, a complete approach would go a long way to understanding the actual costs.
A report from the IG in 2015 stated that at least 300,000 veterans died while waiting for VA healthcare, and at least TWICE as many were still waiting. The VA cited “data limitations” that prevent investigators from determining the full numbers. VA employees deleted some 10,000 electronic transactions that were never processed. After a $10 Billion “fix,” the system still leaves veterans waiting. Even with new leadership, the culture of the VA has remained more bureaucratic than caring.
Can we not do better? Yes we can.
There are solutions which may seem radical, but provide a common sense approach to helping those “who have borne the battle.”
I Medical Records Reform
Reform the documentation of Veterans Medical Records, beginning with their military service by
retraining Doctors, Medics, Corpsmen, to do a more thorough job of documenting medical issues. Often the current plan is to tell the service member to “take some Motrin, drink some water, you will be fine.” The documentation in our military when it comes to our health records is vague, lazy, and sometimes even non-existent. When a service member leaves the Military, his medical record will be reviewed by the VA staff. Most of them are civilian doctors with a very different approach on documenting issues. The more thorough and complete the file is, the more well documented a veteran’s health issues, the better quality of healthcare the Veteran will receive.
When the Service member is at his last months of discharge, he must get a full health revaluation; review his medical file for any inconsistencies, and sign off the medical file to the VA.
II Disability Rating Reform
Every military Service Member with an honorable discharge should be discharged with a ZERO service-connected symptoms disability rating. This means that the veteran starts their time away from service with the lowest disability rating. It is a start that should allow him or her to have an easier way of obtaining disability benefits later.
This doesn’t mean they are disabled but this will be the PRO ACTIVE approach of taking care of Veterans, not when symptoms appear. The top 5 problems Veterans request help for are: PTSD, knee & back chronic pain, hearing loss, and cancer or terminal diseases caused by exposure to chemicals and sleep apnea. These are medical issues across the board. Our government, military knows exactly what type of exposure a service member has had during their career, the service member shouldn’t have to prove he/her was exposed to Burn Pits for example, this is already be documented. Therefore the VA should already be looking to pro actively keep track of the Veteran and look out for symptoms before it’s too late.
Currently, when a service member leaves the military, ten years later he starts to have symptoms, he contacts the VA, VA gives them the run around, requests to prove his identity, his military career etc and then the VA works against the Veteran to prove his disability or compensation. Only when the Veteran is on his death bed are they even interested in such matters… but then is too late. Most Veterans who have died or dying don’t even get that much attention. It’s not just inconsistent reporting, it’s bureaucratic hoops that every veteran must navigate, often to no avail.
Example: Burn pits exposure has caused respiratory illnesses like asthma and emphysema, rare lung disorders, high blood pressure, and other diseases. The VA has a “registry” for people who have been exposed to burn pits. But that’s all it is… a “registry.” It is worthless for establishing a proper study for corollary information, according to the Institute of Medicine.
“These include potential biases in the collected data that result from selective participation, misclassification of exposures or diseases, faulty recall, and other sources of inaccuracy. Such issues make them an intrinsically poor source of information on exposures, health outcomes, and possible associations among these events.” Institute of Medicine
In other words, it’s not helping any of the veterans exposed because the VA can claim that the correlation to their particular disease or symptom and the burn pits is “inconclusive.” So the veteran still gets no help. There are over 178,654 veterans who have opened accounts at the registry. The VA says that certain tests for invasive lung biopsies are ‘not needed’ and therefore the veteran experiencing the symptoms can’t prove the burn pits are to blame. Again, the VA has no statistics on how many veterans have died from burn pit exposure.
III Change the entire structure of the VA
The revamping of the VA should start with total elimination of the 159 VA hospitals and 1,400 clinics. The 2020 budget for the Veteran’s administration is $220.2 Billion. Capital doesn’t come back into the system as easily as it does in the private sector, even though the VA is charged with debt collection, because of the socialist way it is administered. This situation becomes impossible to sustain. By eliminating all VA health facilities the government can then re-allocate those billions towards healthcare for veterans in the form of insurance or insurance subsidies.
For example, if a veteran has already been rated at 50 percent disability, then the VA pays the first 50 percent of their claim sending the other half to either private insurance or Medicare or whatever primary insurance they have. If a veteran already receives free VA care due to income, then the VA can cover this veteran fully. Shutting down facilities not only saves money operating the facilities, it also saves money hiring doctors and staff alike…leaving ample funding directly for healthcare wherever the veteran prefers. Veterans would no longer have to be paid mileage or lodging fees. Wait times would be a non-existent issue therefore treatment is timely enough to prevent more serious and costly procedures.
The Federal government is wasting $billions on VA facilities that have become a severe drain on budgets. Save the money – we wouldn’t need more funding and we could care for all veterans if we stop wasting 100s of billions on facilities alone. (Most of which average veterans can’t get to anyway). Many of those facilities have been in the news for disgusting conditions such as toxic mold, cockroaches on the food, etc.
The veteran ID card should serve as their insurance card, or supplement in many cases. This would make veterans most attractive in shopping for extra insurance. If insurance companies know that veterans can offset some or all healthcare needs, it would be a catalyst for competition to benefit all veterans.
Veterans that have received the best care have been supported by non-profit Veteran organizations in the private sector. Use of the veteran’s ID as an insurance card would streamline the process.
Budget Reform, Informational change
We talk about the cost of war as the Pentagon, and the government typically predicts almost precisely how many service members will be lost during a conflict. They should use the same data to predict the aftermath of a war – the loss of life, PTSD cases, diseases due to exposure to chemicals, etc. Our Government should add into the budget the aftermath of war conflicts or the yearly cost of Active Members transitioning, in war and in peacetime. Example, our government accounted for 58,220 casualties in the Vietnam War. But we lost millions in the aftermath of Agent Orange exposure alone, so the actual cost of war is far more than 58,220. We currently have a website that shines light on the cost of war by posting the numbers of casualties. We need to have a website that does the same with only the numbers of Veterans who have died and for what reasons, i.e. diseases like cancer, suicide. Not the names, but the actual numbers. This way the public and our representatives can have an actual number of the cost of war.
Socialism (single payer healthcare) has never worked properly in any country. Wait times are always an issue, and with military veterans, those wait times are often fatal. A complete restructure of the Veterans Administration by eliminating the entire system of hospitals and clinics would mean that veterans would have real access to private healthcare. Revamping the way a service member is evaluated by the military and the disability determined would also help to streamline the process so that our veterans can be treated with the healthcare they deserve.