March 5, 2016
Davich: Veterans new battlefield – VA's healthcare minefield is the headline on the Chicago Tribune from Jerry Davich. The trouble is, there isn't anything "new" about any of this! Go the VA someday and see what I mean.
The majority of the veterans there are from all the other wars that left disabled veteran feeling unable to contemplate what the words "grateful nation" really mean.
The story is about the new generation of veterans coming home, facing what hasn't been fixed for all the other veterans before them.
Carlos Villarreal did his best to curb his frustration while talking on the phone with the representative from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Sir, I've already had this same conversation with five million other VA reps," Villarreal said as politely as possible. "Yes, sir, I've already had this talk for my consultation and I'm still waiting and waiting for my appointment."
Villarreal, 31, of Hobart, is a former U.S. Marines sergeant who was seriously wounded in combat while serving in Iraq in 2005. Mortar fire caused severe hearing loss, lingering wounds to his mouth and, later, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nothing new about any of this, but why bother to actually report what has been going on all along? Here's some history reporters don't bother with. Until they do, nothing will change.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for Veterans of any nation in the world, with roots that can be traced back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims passed a law that stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony.Oh, but why remember all of those generations since they're all dead now? Because what they went through mattered enough to the rest of this country and the government promised to take care of them.
Later, the Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War, providing pensions to disabled soldiers. In the early days of the Republic, individual states and communities provided direct medical and hospital care to Veterans. In 1811, the federal government authorized the first domiciliary and medical facility for Veterans. Also in the 19th century, the nation's Veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for Veterans, but for their widows and dependents. Following the Civil War, many state Veterans homes were established. Since domiciliary care was available at all state Veterans homes, incidental medical and hospital treatment was provided for all injuries and diseases, whether or not of service origin. Indigent and disabled Veterans of the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period, as well as the discharged regular members of the Armed Forces, received care at these homes.
As the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Congress established a new system of Veterans benefits, including programs for disability compensation, insurance for service personnel and Veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. By the 1920s, three different federal agencies administered the various benefits: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
The first consolidation of federal Veterans programs took place August 9, 1921, when Congress combined all World War I Veterans programs to create the Veterans Bureau. Public Health Service Veterans’ hospitals were transferred to the bureau, and an ambitious hospital construction program for World War I Veterans commenced.
House Veterans Affairs Committee, seated in 1946 and given jurisdiction over everything veterans were promised for risking their lives for the rest of this "grateful nation" they returned to.
This was reported by Gregg Carlstom for Federal Times on February 25, 2008 showing the years of veterans waiting for members of Congress to do their jobs.
Poor planning by agency leaders and underfunding by Congress created these debilitating backlogs that may take years to resolve, according to federal officials, legislators and watchdog groups.
At the start of the Bush administration in 2001, VA had more than 400,000 pending claims for disability ratings, which determine a service-disabled veteran’s employability and disability benefits. The department made progress reducing that number: By 2003, the backlog was down to around 250,000.
But then the nation went to war.
“VA was kind of cruising right along with a certain volume of claims until the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Then the volume of claims increased,” said Belinda Finn, VA’s assistant inspector general for auditing. “We still had the same processes for handling a lower workload, and the system just hasn’t been able to handle the increase in claims.”
And so the backlog started creeping up. By 2008, VA once again has more than 400,000 pending claims for a disability rating. About 25 percent of those are officially considered backlogged, meaning they have been pending longer than six months.
“The number of claims that we receive each year has been going up pretty steadily,” said Michael Walcoff, VA’s associate deputy undersecretary for field operations. “In 2000, we got 578,000 claims, and last year got 838,000. That’s a pretty significant increase, and certainly some of that can be attributed to the soldiers coming back from [the wars].”
In June of 2008 the VA claim backlog stood at 879,291 within President Bush's second term.
President Obama took office with a backlog of claims at 803,000 on January 5, 2009. By May it was 915,000.
So if reporters keep trying to pretend that any of this is new, it will keep getting worse for older veterans after they waited longer, suffered longer and have been forgotten about.