The state of the VA Health Care System
In the USA where we let our vets die instead of treat them
Here in the United States of America we let our veterans go hungry, live on the streets, suffer debilitating mental illnesses, and die while waiting for benefits and/or health care after serving in the military.
Sadly many vets who have waited in sever pain from injury or illness, have waited so long for health care just to manage pain, that they have contemplated suicide.
Some have waited so long to be seen, that by the time they were seen they learn they have cancer and are handed a death sentence when they are told they should have been seen sooner.
Drive through any major city and you will find dozens of homeless veterans, families of veterans and sick veterans who will likely die as a result of our broken VA Benefit System.
The VA scandal broke two years ago, I heard it on NPR the day it broke and my mind swam with fear thinking of my father who is older and depending on good health care as he heads into retirement. I later learned that dear old dad decided to work longer instead of retiring when he could just so that he could keep and have affordable medical insurance for a little while longer.
I know, sit back and let that sink in for those of you that bitch about Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act (I bitch about it too, truth be known). It’s not really affordable for most of us, we realized we’d be paying more or be fined by the IRS if we didn’t take employer provided health care coverage. When I hear my dad and his veteran friends tell me they are working past retirement age just for the “affordable” health insurance I am totally blown away.
It puts a new perspective on affordable health care. The Obama Affordable healthcare Act just forces many into having to take insurance, whether they can afford it or not, but the insurance coverage is actually, believe it or not better than the VA health care coverage. Medicaid still eats the entire system alive but that is a topic for another time.
The VA Health Care system was put in place as a promise to take care of our veterans, and it’s costing many of them more than private insurance under the Affordable Healthcare Act.
It should not cost them out of pocket more than any private insurance. These men and women served our nation for all of us period and end of story. They deserve better benefits than the rest of us because of that service.
Mental health is always a huge concern of mine. I work with someone who came back from the service not always in the right frame of mind if you will and that happens with a lot of men and women who see any type of combat. This happily married man and also a father that I work with is a really great person, heart of gold, he’d do anything to help someone else, but when he has PTSD moments you can visibly see him shutting down and going somewhere else mentally. No one can be around him when this happens. The VA benefit program has offered very little if any support or care for him other than prescribe a pill that makes his episodes worse.
The VA really doesn’t do much for Vets who suffer from mental illness. It’s take this pill or that pill. They are not getting the therapeutic services they truly need so that they can learn how to manage the illness they have without taking a bunch of medication or without self medicating.
I know many vets who can’t deal with the side effects of the medications in fact, some medications make the urge to commit suicide or kill so much worse, the vets stop taking the meds altogether. (thank the FDA for yet another brilliant set of drug approvals, yea…)
For many of those Vets suffering from such ailments a trip to the psych unit at the hospital or police interaction at some point happens quite frequently. Neither of which has or knows that individual’s history, something many vets are also unwilling to just hand out to a doctor they have no rapport with, let alone a cop. The police are not therapists either, they are ill equipped to know how to handle and deal with one person’s mental illness compared to the next.
Each person suffers differently when you look at things like anxiety, PTSD, bipolar personality disorder and even depression. Because each person’s chemical makeup is different they suffer these conditions differently, thus each person’s condition should be treated differently even if the diagnosis is the same from one individual to another. Which is why a trip to the local hospital or a brief interaction with police can turn deadly or result in the individual reliving that moment the next day, next week or a year from that. If no one knows this person’s history, they can’t help them. If the police send someone to the hospital they are under the impression the person is getting “treatment.”
So many who depend on the benefits from the VA to get that treatment, unbeknownst to police and local hospitals, may say they are seeing or have been seen by a VA Dr. may not have ever had any real treatment for whatever reason they need to be seen for.
At the end of the day, what that means is, no one bothers to check.
While over at the VA it’s, toss them in and toss them out. Vets are treated more like a number at the VA and many Vets in fact, report that they felt the only people who cared or showed any true empathy for them while being treated at the VA are the volunteers who work across the country at the VA hospitals and clinics. Everyone else treats them as a number, get them in and toss them out so they can move on to the next. These Vets who report this have more trust and faith in those volunteers than the doctors who are tasked with providing care to them.
People like my dad get better medical care through the company he works for, his VA benefits are terrible. My dad fought in Vietnam, he watched many of his fellow men die and he was lucky to make it home himself. His VA benefits offer little if any help for any of his needs now that he is aging.
He is forced to continue to work so that he doesn’t have to drill through his retirement funds to cover the medical expenses that an aging individual who was born in the 40’s has (bad American diets and all from that genre).
It would be one thing if he wasn’t a vet and just looking at medicaid or medicare which by the way and this is truly stomach turning. Dad is eligible for medicare right now even though he is still working and has insurance through work. Well as it turns out, the medicare coverage is better than the VA benefit coverage is. How goddamn wrong is that?
The VA health scandal however, should not surprise anyone, it’s just another Government run organization where the oversight was just as bad as the organization itself. I’ve said this over and over again, in today’s world it’s becoming more difficult, Government or not to cover up this sort of stuff. While the Government watches us, we watch them and we can always count on a whistleblower.
Which is how the entire VA scandal unfolded by the way. Dr Sam Foote first reported the horrible wait times for vets and from then on, former VA employee after employee has stepped forward to not only back him up but report new cases of patient neglect, which is the majority of the issues. What makes it worse is now Vets are stepping forward to back up everything Dr. Foote reported as well as what every single other whistleblower has reported.
The VA administration has nowhere to hide or run and that’s as it should be.
A little over a year ago Congress put into action a so called action a plan “The Vets Choice Program.” they could take this Vets Choice insurance card to a healthcare provider outside of the VA if they met certain criteria and they get treated.
Well it’s easy to do unless you are dealing with the Government.
The Government couldn’t even set this program up on their own, they had to hire an outside agency to do it (several turned them down by the way before they found one who agreed), which we all know that, outside firms know they can ass rape the Government, with no lube over costing.
Yes so very crude, I do that to get your attention so allow for me to elaborate. Any and every Government organization from a city run to a state run, a parish, a municipality run has a yearly budget awarded to them. If they don’t spend that budget before the end of that fiscal year, they run through each department and go a spending spree of just bullshit. If departments have a lot of money to spend, they purchase big ticket items, computers, printers etc whether the items purchased or not are needed. Even the military does this. They spend every dime of what was in that years budget so that they can be allotted the same budget as the year before whether they need it OR NOT.
I had a good friend who had six computers/laptops on his desk at work from this kind of spending year after year. They spent the money and did very little to track it. I could have had a new home computer for six years before anyone caught on…you get the gist.
If the city or state has extra money they give it to certain departments on top of the last years budget they spent. In case anyone wondered how that all unfolded. That is the dumbed down version.
The private industry knows this and they bank on it. If the organization they are working with doesn’t have the money for the product that private industry bid on, they know that the government will find a way to get that money. If the Government can’t pay for let’s say the entire product the private industry company has bid on, the Government sometimes will pay for part of it.
This is how we get to point B of the Vets choice program which has failed. Vets quickly learned that in some cases the wait times were no better than waiting at the VA hospital or clinic and in some cases even longer and then, the Government was not making payments on time or at all to the medical organizations outside of the VA, so those organizations began to drop out of the Vets Choice Plan.
Worse yet, whenever the VA fails to pay, those organizations outside of the VA the one’s our Vets were told they could go see under the VA’s Vets Choice program, then bills our Vets. That in turn has caused quite a few issues with our Vets with credit reporting and collections.
Aside from medical benefits, the VA benefits program scandal goes even deeper. The VA Benefits program also handles pensions, handing out flags at a funeral for a Veteran, things we did not realize the program handles. In some cases a small pension is due to a living spouse and as it turns out quite a few living spouses have not received the small pension which could have helped them out because of the VA scandals, and they have suffered for it. Some didn’t even know about the benefit because of this scandal for over 10 years.
10 years, so while the scandal broke in 2014, this mess has been brewing for well over 5 years.
So what do we do with this mess?
Well for starters, kick the oversight committee out. They already admitted to insider lying, they can’t be trusted, you have to call a spade a spade here. The Government needs to be more proactive when hiring or bringing in someone from the private sector as well. Lay the budget out, lay out the expectations and stick to them, hence the government needs to get rid of individuals who think money grows on trees or his or her job will be protected.
Sometimes what you are willing to pay for is not in line with industry standards. Basically, you are asking for a bunch of shit for free, that you are not going to get because some head of some office somewhere in the organization is out of touch with today’s world.
Look at the new VA hospital in Aurora, CO for example, they are still to this day skirting issues with that whole ordeal. The original contractor pulled off the job just stopped working because the VA went over budget and stopped paying them. Which was the VA’s fault they kept asking for things that were not in the budget which caused them to go over.
Someone wanted a pretty hospital…That never used to happen with government agencies, it used to be the Government told you when and how they would pay if ever and you couldn’t do much about it.
Now as it turns out, you actually can do a lot when your Government agency doesn’t pay in a timely manner, the private industry is turning the tables and the Government is so very slow to catch onto that as they have shown us over and over again.
So the VA Benefit program failures were caused by individuals within our Government (Saunders was one of them if you did your homework), who are out of touch with both how things work and are accomplished in today’s world. They did not do any homework and failed to come through for our Vets. Some might say I am being unfair, but these are leaders, they should not have to do the homework someone like myself or you would have to do in an effort to get a proper benefit system in place for our Vets. They should already know who the major players are and who to go to or partner with or have some “advisor” on staff who does…unless of course, they are out of touch. Which is true for many of our aging congressmen and women.
The only way to fix this mess is to clear the red tape in bring someone in who knows how today’s technology works, it helps with things like paying for gas, groceries, flowers, the farmers market goods and HEALTH INSURANCE, so they don’t get taken by some private sector company who does part of the job and not well at that, and who can see actually visualize point A to Point Z and lay it out for congress. They need to be able to lay out how it works at every step of the way meaning the receiver, the caregiver and the payor. How does it all work together and play together? See it as it would work in today’s world keeping in mind the the Government is no longer in a position to tell any vendor what it’s willing to pay for or not.
Cristal M Clark
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