By Elmer Ellsworth
Yesterday I spent my day at the VA Hospital in Philadelphia. Simply put it was a most unpleasant day for many different reasons, but perhaps only combat veterans can truly appreciate most.
I have been have been fortunate enough to have civilian healthcare coverage. So, other than the local community vet center, this was my first time at a VA hospital in a while. I spoke to many people – other Veterans, family members of patients, hospital staff, doctors and nurses.
It seems like the pure weight of this massive and complex health care system hinges on huge numbers of individual determinations of whether or not an illness or injury is “service connected.” This problem is complicated by enormous numbers of elderly veterans and changes in rules / expectations of who is within the definition of a “veteran.” I am not in any position to judge or evaluate the quality of the care, but as a layman (and a patient) there is a vast difference between the VA and the civilian medical centers that I have experienced.
There is no question that as Veterans we must be grateful for the numerous people within the VA who truly care and have dedicated themselves to serving our Veterans. I am not sure that there could ever be enough praise for these individuals to overcome the morale challenge facing them. But I find myself struggling to answer some questions and to make some sense out of all the articles and stories that I have read over the past several years.
How on heavens earth could it possibly be less expensive to administer the VA claim system than to simply provide complete health care to all Veterans who meet some minimum initial service obligation? Ironically, most civilians believe that is the case – that once you have served you get free healthcare for life.
Similarly, if the purpose and intent of Obama Care was and is to ensure that everybody has health care and remove the existing condition problem, doesn’t our tax dollars end up paying for those that the VA declines to serve anyway? How did we pay for and pass this huge healthcare program and not include Veterans?
Clearly there are some services for combat veterans that should be provided solely by those who dedicate their lives to serving people with combat related injuries and issues. But I am at loss for understanding how this problem can be so difficult.
If any of our politicians had to use the VA system for their care it would not be this broken. What about all those powerful retired Generals you say? Well, remember, those Generals retired with full benefits and have government provided civilian healthcare plans – so they are not personally impacted by the failures of the VA system.
Bottom line – The promises, pandering, blaming and bickering is maddening. Our leaders should be locked in a room until they can figure it out. Until then, I pray that I am able to keep my civilian healthcare insurance so I can avoid the insanity.