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Memorializing the VA

05/24/2014

Since the press focus this Memorial Day weekend is on the troubles in the Veterans Administration system of healthcare, I thought I would add my observations.

I was discharged from the Army in 1970.  The following year, the VA determined I was 20% disabled due to my injuries and started paying me $61 monthly.  While that amount has increased over the decades since then to $258 monthly, I find that, due to inflation, it still buys me approximately the same number of six-packs of 12-oz cans of pain relief as it did in 1971.

However, I have noticed two distinct trends.  First, it has clearly become more difficult to get an appointment, especially since the second Iraq War.  Twice, my doctor was out sick himself (PTSD, I suspect), and it took 4-5 months to re-schedule each appointment.  Despite increased funding, too many people have entered the system.  Providing battlefield care alone does not even begin to pay the cost of war.  (Economists have estimated the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at THREE TRILLION DOLLARS.)

Second, the VA is clearly an Equal Opportunity project that has now run amuck, with tragic results.  While the healthcare staff draws talent from 100% of population and does a remarkable job, there is a world of difference with the administrative staff, which draws talent from only 11% of the population.  It reminds me of the old TV commercial showing a long line of people waiting in a post office, while the two postal workers discussed their fringe benefits.  My understanding of the pending legislation is that it did contain language permitting the VA to eliminate deadwood, but that it was deleted, which is unfortunate.  An Affirmative Action job should not come with tenure.  The problem is with the administrative staff, not the healthcare staff.

Make no mistake:  I am grateful for the healthcare I receive from the Veterans Administration and often feel guilty using it, since I already have good healthcare, but I do feel a kinship to the other veterans and enjoy their company.

During all these decades, I have often praised the VA healthcare system as a model for delivering healthcare to the uninsured.  With the political windbags spinning points from the current controversy, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that millions of people STILL have no access to healthcare, even in a post-ObamaCare age.

Thank you, VA!  I hope you have a happy, healthy Memorial Day weekend too!!

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