Bush Is Dismantling The Veterans Administration
He's Trying To Destroy Benefits and Healthcare
By Larry Scott
The Senator's aide chuckled rather loudly and said, "What VA? By the time this administration is done there won't be a VA." Our conversation had begun with a discussion of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA's) healthcare budget, and quickly came down to a single, simple point. VA is being dismantled.
Three reasons why the administration would want to dismantle VA immediately come to mind:
VA is a large-scale, publicly funded healthcare system that works: VA works so well it has been used as a model to push the case for nationalized healthcare; something that strikes fear in the heart of every Republican.
Recent studies by the Rand Corporation and the University of Michigan , working with UCLA, prove the point that VA is efficient and provides healthcare that meets the highest standards. If it can work for millions of veterans, it can work for millions of Americans. That concept is antithetical to current administration thinking.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina we learned that VA was the ONLY healthcare organization that managed to save ALL patient records. This is because VA uses a computerized system that was backed-up on a regional level and put back online in a matter of hours. Now that system is under attack by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Rep. Buyer wants to eliminate regional control of the system under the guise of saving money.
VA is ripe for privatization: And that spells profits for private corporations. The latest move in this direction happened last week on Capitol Hill where the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs approved S. 1182 (see Sec. 10) which would spend money from VA's healthcare budget to study outsourcing jobs of VA healthcare workers. The study, with VA healthcare funds going to private consultants, could cost over $140 million and lead to the loss of up to 36,000 VA jobs. Democrats opposed it, but Republicans pushed it through.
VA is part of BIG government: And that's something this administration abhors. GOP strategist Grover Norquist says he wants the government shrunk down so he can "drown it in the bathtub." The problem with this is that smaller government means fewer services as well as the much-touted lower taxes. And the jobs that are spared are outsourced and cost more to maintain because private corporations have to build in a profit margin.
So, while the concept of smaller government appeals to many, the economics fall into the "voodoo" category, and the social ramifications spell disaster for those who need the programs that are cut back or eliminated. In fact, smaller government gives less but costs more per person served. And I should remind Grover that 24.6 million veterans won't fit in a bathtub and the ones that do surely WILL drown.
Dismantling and privatizing VA is a big job. But the administration has enlisted like minds to sell the concept to the public.
Last year we had the CARES commission that recommended closing VA hospitals and clinics and urged making VA's primary mission outpatient treatment. All this while the number of aging veterans, especially those from the Vietnam era, demands that more inpatient space be made available at VA facilities.
Then add the wisdom of Dr. David Chu, a Department of Defense undersecretary who said that the government is spending so much money on veterans' benefits that it is hurting the country's ability to fight current wars. Rep. Steve Buyer is pushing for massive changes in VA benefits. The Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission is studying ways to completely rewrite the book on veterans' benefits at the request of the administration.
To add to the above insults, VA has instituted a review of 72,000 PTSD claims that have already been awarded to veterans. Why? To increase their benefits? I don't think so! Also, VA has instituted the Second Signature Required policy for veterans filing claims for conditions that have the highest level of monetary award. Again, why? Again, I don't think so!
While VA represents a lifeline to veterans it is an ideological anchor to an administration that has gone out of its way to portray veterans' benefits as something akin to welfare . This assault on VA and veterans' benefits will not stop. The major service organizations know it, yet all they do is go before a committee and testify that veterans are good guys and deserve benefits, while their dues-paying members are waiting months for treatment at a VA facility or getting no treatment at all.
Larry Scott (former E-5) served four-plus years in the US Army with overseas tours as a Broadcast Journalist at AFKN HQ, Seoul, Korea and AFN, Lajes Field, The Azores, Portugal and a stateside tour as a Broadcast Journalism Instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS). Larry was decorated four times including the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He was awarded DOD's First Place Thomas Jefferson Award for Excellence in Journalism. After the Army, Larry was a news anchor on WNBC Radio in New York City. He receives VA compensation for a service-connected disability. Today, Larry resides in Southwest Washington and operates the website VA Watchdog dot Org.
To contact Larry Scott email [email protected]
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