I have been asking around to Veterans that I know in Cleveland about the care that they receive at the Department of Veteran's Affairs Hospital and the services surrounding the VA. It seems that most people are pretty satisfied with the care that they are receiving locally. Most of the veterans say that they wished that they could get appointments faster, but that they understand the huge numbers returning from conflict who need help. They say that the private insurance market is way harder to deal with compared to the VA system. I have not come across anyone who has the experiences of those described from Phoenix or that the President identified when announcing the proposed new VA Secretary.
The White House released a scathing report Obama commissioned that charged the VA with “significant and chronic system failures.” The report also said the VA is battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health needs.
I understand that the former Secretary had to fall on his sword in order to quell some of the fire that was raging in the veterans community, but I liked Secretary Eric Shinseki. He was quiet and did not show a range of emotion which probably led to his downfall. He set a standard of care and expected the staff to follow that level. He came out of the military culture of honor and service and expected that culture to permeate throughout the Veterans Affairs Department. He seemed to be stunned that staff would lie and cheat for financial benefit. I thought that his goal of ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015 was a good one.
The Veterans were betrayed and let down by the government they were asked to defend. Both the administration and the Congressional branch do a disservice to the veterans. They did not allocate enough funding to serve the nation's wounded. We have not built a trusting relationship with the Vietnam era veterans and now we are trying to deal with the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. We had requests for seeing a doctor increase by 50% but we only brought on a 9% increase in the number of doctors over the last five years. They have seen a 78% increase in their budget during that time, but the bureaucracy does not operate very efficiently. The technology used at the VA facilities are archaic and outdated and frustrating for patients and staff. There are some 7 million veterans seeking various levels of assistance from the Department with 2 million more patients compared to five years ago.
According to the New York Times, in the past three years, primary-care appointments have leapt 50 percent while the department’s staff of primary care doctors has grown by only 9 percent, according to department statistics.
They need to figure out a way to streamline services between active military and retired. They need to ease the backlog of evaluating veterans for benefits. They should call the health care staff something different to them from the benefits staff who may have denied full benefits. The VA needs to do something big and bold to regain the trust of the community. There are some serious holes in the system, but it is not completely broken.
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