October 02

The Forgotten Heroes: A Call for Veteran Reform

Before the second debate, Donald Trump wrote an article to CNN (which he published), stating that since the ratings for the network would skyrocket due to his appearance and participation, CNN should thank him by donating all the money the network makes from the debate to Veterans.

Veteran Reform has been a long standing political issue, one that both parties actually agree on. The topic came under fire in the spring of 2014, when it was revealed that wait time for a veteran to get an initial doctors visit took up to 115 days. The Obama administration acted, causing the VA secretary at the time, Eric Shinseki, to resign. Congress quickly responded to the news, and Obama signed a 16.3 billion dollar bill to aid the Veterans Affairs department, which most obviously needed some swift reform. The law allocates $10 billion for veterans unable to attend a veteran medical center, hoping to grant all those who served in the US military a chance to get adequate healthcare. After this reform, the issue died down, and a former Proctor and Gamble CEO was nominated to take over the dysfunctional department. Secretary Robert A. McDonald, a West Point graduate, was nominated with a 97-0 vote with the promise of seriously fixing a broken veteran healthcare system. He had the money, he had the executive experience, and the issue more or less went away.

Today, however, Senator Roy Blunt brought the issue again to the Senate floor after revelations in the past few weeks that the reform promised has not been met. Blunt wrote on his twitter account, “It’s time for #VA to focus on what’s good for our #veterans – not on what’s good for the VA. We owe it to our heroes.” Blunt wants to increase the funding for veterans’ healthcare, benefit claims, medical research, and technology upgrades. The Senate did not choose to debate the bill, as Blunt points out, so he spent him time on the floor showing why this issue is important and necessary. Regardless of the bill passed a year ago, the problems within the VA have grown, and the bill that helped veterans get non VA facility healthcare has not been effective.

Blunt now wants to change the way veterans get healthcare in Congress, and not just rely on the VA to make adequate reforms. Blunt said that Congress “intends Veterans choice to mean just that,” that Veterans really have a choice about their healthcare, not just in name but in reality. The senator points out that there should not be some long wait for healthcare, and that getting your blood pressure tested versus a heat stint are two vastly different procedures. Here is a breakdown of his speech on the Senate floor today:

  1. All Veterans should be happy and satisfied with their healthcare, not just a small percentage. There should be an overwhelming dedication to ensure that the best standard is the standard across the board, and that there are no veterans that slip through the cracks.
  2. There needs to be more oversight with reports. It came to Blunt’s and the Congress’ attention that regardless of the huge spending bill that was passed last year, there are still misrepresented numbers of veterans’ completed consultation which in fact was not true. A psychiatrist received bonus pay for veterans successfully treated with numbers that were totally fabricated. This made the VA look good, but in reality, the actual numbers do not back up their claims.
  3. There is a problem with leadership within the VA system. At the largest veterans’ hospital in America, the John Cochran Hospital, there have been seven different directors in two years. Blunt pointed out that there might as well be no director, as there is zero incentive to improve the quality and standard of healthcare if you know you will be out the door in the near future. Furthermore, 30 hospitals in America have no director at all. That’s 1 out of 5 hospitals in America that are completely without leadership.
  4. Veterans should have choice. Blunt said that competition is good, especially when it comes to healthcare. There are a handful of issues he believes the VA should be experts in treating, such as PTSD, IED attacks, such as eye injuries, prosthetics, and spinal chord injuries. For other issues where a different hospital has better doctors, veterans should have the choice to go there in order to receive the best treatment.

Blunt promised that he and many members of Congress are dedicated to reforming this long broken issue. While there is normally so much bipartisan division in Congress over issues, this is one that really everyone can agree upon, and it needs immediate attention and correction so veterans no longer serve so selflessly, and are then forgotten.