23 July 2008

McCain would ration VA medical care

John McCain, a Vietnam war veteran and POW who has supported Bush Administration cuts in VA health care funding and service for veterans in the past, has a new bright idea about how to save America money.

"Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s call to "concentrate veterans’ health care on those with combat injuries" is raising questions about the Arizona senator’s commitment to funding the ailing VA system."

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., said a system that treats combat veterans and non-combat veterans differently is inherently unfair. “We can care for both combat veterans and non-combat veterans if we just decide it is an important thing to do,” Filner said Thursday, one day after McCain talked at a Dover, N.H., town hall meeting about the need to concentrate veterans’ health care on people with injuries that 'are a direct result of combat.'"

It's infuriating that people like Bush and McCain would even consider trying to economize by refusing or delaying health care to veterans who've served their country honorably and in good faith while at the same time spending billions on a war that was started through dishonesty, hubris and greed.

Count me in among those who responded to this news with an emphatic "You've got to be shitting me." I learned about McCain's ill-considered idea at the Carpetbagger Report website. I read the write up there, then the article it referred to, and then the comments. Before I was through, I submitted a comment myself:

"I’m a 51-year-old female veteran who served in the Air Force during peacetime. Once out of the military I got medical insurance through my employers. All was good.

"But now, I’ve been unemployed for 18 months. When I was laid off from my job, I lost my medical benefits and was unable to afford health insurance on my own. After more than a year, I finally turned to the VA for medical care, fearing the consequences should I become ill before I could find a new job that could offer me medical insurance as part of a benefits package.

"I am charged a co-pay (comparable to that I paid when I had medical insurance) for prescription medications and an additional fee if I am referred to specialists within the VA system. It’s very fair. I would be glad to pay more, within my means, if they should ask me to. I also want to point out that the vast majority of military veterans, regardless of when they served or whether they were injured during their service, never turn to the VA for their medical care. Most, like me, pay into the health insurance industry like other Americans and only turn to the VA as a stop-gap measure or as a last resort.

"The VA doctors found a suspicious lump in my breast during my initial physical. I will soon undergo a biopsy to discover whether the lump is malignant. Chances are good it won’t be, but if it is, I am deeply thankful that the VA is still allowed to fulfill the promise it made to me — and to all military veterans — to care for us in the future should the need arise.

"This medical care just may save my life.

"So I’m appalled that John McCain would even consider further cutting VA medical services. America’s all-voluntary military serves in peacetime and war, knowing that they could be called at any moment to risk their lives for their country. I was lucky. I served in the late 70s and early 80s and was never called upon to risk my life. But had I been, I would have. It was what I’d pledged to do.

"I have nothing but deep respect for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving now in Iraq and Afghanistan. They deserve our unbridled support, and they certainly deserve good, quality health care from the VA medical system should they need it. But so should the thousands and thousands of other veterans who’ve served and who have also made sacrifices, whether they served in peace or during war.

"Would Mr. McCain now deny my husband, who is a disabled veteran, or me, the medical care we were promised when we raised our right hand and took the oath just because we weren’t wounded on a battlefield? Would he deny care to the thousands and thousands of Vietnam and Korean War vets, most of whom also were not wounded in battle, simply because they also didn’t receive battlefield injuries during their service?

"American veterans come in all shapes and sizes, colors and genders. While I believe that those who were wounded in battle should always get a respectful and cheerful pass to the front of the line, all veterans deserve equal care. And all of them should receive the very best care a proud nation can provide for them. This was the promise our nation made to us in return for our willingness to lose our lives in defense of our country and fellow Americans.

"Shame on John McCain, one of America’s most famous veterans, for forgetting that all veterans took a terrible risk the day they joined up. Shame on him for suggesting that VA benefits be cut when America is spending millions of dollars every single day, paying for the war in Iraq, which did not need to be fought. Those millions could easily cover the costs of caring for America’s veterans, many times over."

12 comments:

dorki said...

Truly eloquent, and dead on (as you usually are). How could McCain even think cutting the VA when it is so under-funded and under-staffed as it is now?

Travelvet said...

Personally as a peacetime disabled female veteran who's been trying to deal with the VA for more than 21 years now, I believe that the time has come for the entire VA to have a major overhaul audit for misappropriation of funds.

I say this because I am 100% for PTSD and should receive all my health care through my local VA. The VA only treats the vets who don't mind assembly-line unqualified doctors.

I haven't had any health or mental health care since 2002. The same time my acute kidney failure from a blood disorder. This blood disorder was caused from chemical, pesticide and depleted uranium exposure that I experienced while in the Navy in 1983. My kidney biopsy proves it.

I ended up have five major surgeries within 18 months. I was consistently turned away from the VA ER due to the lack of female nurses. I was told to go to the nearest private hospital. I did this five times. Each time resulted in emergency surgery. The bills piled up and I submitted them to the VA.

Well, to my surprise...the VA classified my acute kidney failure, blood loss, IVC filter surgery, two stomach surgeries for removal of 3 masses and a radical hysterectomy...all as non-urgent leaving me with over $100k in medical bills.

Thanks to the VA's refusal of medical care, I have a 20 year 2nd mortgage and I'm left paying for ALL my own medical care and mental health care.

My own personal views are: NO female veteran should never HAVE to depend on the VA for any medical care!!! I hope that one day the the VA will realize how inadequate THEY are...when it comes to treating female veterans. I only hope that they wake up and realize that it would so much more respectful of them to admit it and just give us female veterans a health care card that would be accepted by any doctor.

After all, we female veterans have truly sacrificed. In my case, I've had female related medical issues since I gave birth to my son under extreme conditions in 1984(while on active duty and in theater). I nearly died for heat exhaustion, toxemia and was worked to death by my division officer. I was carried out on a gurney, went into labor early, my son was deprived oxygen as a result. He's had to suffer from autism and birth defects ever since.

As a result of the botched pregnancy and delivery, I was left with over 500 stitches, never able to have another child, and left to raise a handicap child while also diagnosed with PTSD. The military nor the VA ever compensated me or my son for our sacrifices.

And now 20 years later, I'm left with one working kidney, on blood thinners for life, PTSD and left to pay for all my future medical care also. Where's the justice???

Please don't depend on the VA for any major medical procedures. They will only mess you up and leave you seeking a real doctor to correct the VAs mistakes. I've known of too many female veterans who have had horrible experiences with the VA medical care.

One of my lady vet friends had thyroid cancer and the tumor was so large she couldn't breath. The VA gave her chemo under the condition that she allow the VA dental to pull all her teeth. Then the VA refused to provide dentures.

Another breathing problem happened to her, and the VA turned her away and she went to a private ER. The bills came in and she couldn't afford to pay. That hospital sued her in court and won a judgment against her.

Last I heard, she went back to the VA for a lumpectomy on her breast and she left with a partial mastectomy and no aftercare. Is this any way to treat a 100% disabled lady veteran who had just become a grandma for the first time at 47 years old???

Please take care of yourself and don't let the VA push your buttons.

Larry Jones said...

Wren and Travelvet - Your stories are nightmarish and you have my sympathy.

The military has always been a reliable voting bloc for the right wing, but the current batch of conservatives, once in power, don't seem to care about the troops (or anyone else without a billion dollars in the bank). We must hope that VA "reform" is not carried out by Republicans. If it is, it will end up being privatized, with the money going to friends of the President.

Stan68ar said...

There is a systematic failure in both Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs designed to address the medical and overall readjustment needs of war veterans. There is no plan to gather usable data and monitor the 1.5 million deployed Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) service members as they return to duty or reintegrate into civilian society. The continued incomplete process of reintegrating soldiers, especially Guard and Reserve Soldiers is an indicator of continued process deficiencies.

DoD currently requires service members to answer a limited questionnaire to determine if they need to be referred for treatment upon their return from a combat theater. Soldiers are typically rushed to return home after a deployment and do not necessarily give these questions sufficient attention, nor have they changed gears from mission first mentality.

I returned from OIF as a Reservist in 2005. DoD had no provision for me or any member of my unit to obtain physicals or evaluation. As individually mobilized Reserve Soldiers we were swiftly processed, lock step, over 4 days at Ft. Bliss and shipped home. I went to the VA about a month after my return to civilian life (had to take leave from my civilian job) and in the course of trying to get my initial medical screen was assaulted by a Phlebotomist at the Clinic. So the Bottom line - no medical exam, check-up, evaluation, etc... for this Reserve Soldier. My story is not unique and many others can be found online... DoD and VA net effort to identify, treat and reintegrate is near zero and broken.

As a status check if the system we see the reported rise in the backlog of more than 100,000 claims in two years. The continued absence of consistently prompt mental health referrals as part of Post-Deployment Health Assessment process. Half as many members of the Guard and Reserve file disability claims as compared to active duty veterans and these claims are rejected at twice the rate. Frankly, after 24 years in the Army Reserve, I don’t have a clue how to even start a claim, nor is anyone inclined to step up and assist as I’m now retired.

I believe its time to insist that VA and DoD better coordinate efforts and become more proactive. Efforts to effectively share medical information are underway but still far short of what is needed. My medical records from the mobilization were unceremoniously put in an envelope and mailed to my house… no one reviewed, followed up or checked them. I could not get a physical or even medical attention at Bliss within the month I returned as facilities were overwhelmed. The effort at that post at the time being nearly completely invested in those getting ready to deploy. To be fair DoD should conduct mandatory in-person physical and mental health exams with every service member 30 to 90 days after deployment.

The current system still reflects a bias that was relevant before Guard and Reserve soldiers became part of an operational reserve. Little has been done to change the support structure for Reserve component unique challenges in either the VA or DoD.

Wren said...

Travelvet and Stan: Your stories are sad and I am deeply sorry to hear that you have been let down by the VA medical system.

I'm sure there are many more stories like yours out there, and I think we can all agree that the VA is in need of vast improvement in many areas. But there are also many stories of vets who have received good, competent care in spite of the problems.

My hope is that perhaps we can get a good start on fixing what's wrong when our country has a leadership more willing to reach out and help all veterans, regardless of when and where they served their country.

The point of my post was that Mr. McCain wants to even further reduce medical care through the VA for veterans who need it by offering care in favor of a particular group of vets at the expense of all the others. This is simply wrong.

I wish you both the best of luck in receiving the high quality medical care and/or mental health treatment you earned, deserve and were promised when you took the oath to defend our country.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, there's quite a lot to be fixed and quite a few being shafted, not just the veterans. Small business is finding it difficult to pay for insurance for their own families in this economy let alone any employees. What we pay a year would shock you, just so my Enbrel will be covered (When we were paying less than half of what we pay now they denied me). We can't afford employees which means long hours and it's galling to see illegals demanding free health care. With the economy the way it is, there's no guarantee we'll be able to continue with that insurance plan and I'll be back on one that wont allow me the one thing I need to function. (look up Enbrel in the UK, they're already denying people the choice of similar TNF inhibitors if just one doesn't work because it isn't "cost effective")

A lot of issues regarding health care need fixing and the current attitude of "who's going to pay for me" isn't right. I want to see insurance and medications made affordable and individuals responsible for their own health insurance as they are their car insurance with help going only to those who truly need it.

ladyvet said...

We are talking about VETERANS health care and NOT small business owners with health insurance problems!!!

DISABLED VETERANS are ENTITLED to FULL quality health care. And the government is misappropriating funds that should be used for DISABLED VETERANS health care. The result is that many disabled veterans do not get any health care!!! Thus WE, VETERANS are suffering!!!

COMPARING what a small business owner must pay for employee health insurance is not the same as this conversation about VETERAN health care!!! WE ALREADY PAID for health care with our sacrifices made during our militry service!!! If you were a veteran, you'd know this!!

Your posting belongs on a site with complaints to your local insurance commissioner and NOT on a site discussing VETERANS health benefits!!!

You're comparing apples and oranges!!

Anonymous said...

I'm comparing a screwed up system to the rest of the screwed up system pointing out that Vets aren't the only ones getting shafted by a system that needs a complete re-haul.
Sorry you can't see that.

LADYVET said...

The title of this blog is "McCain would ration VA medical care". Do you see any mention about private insurance or small business owners??

Veterans have to FIGHT for every entitlement. You just don't get it. We're talking about all veterans regardless of whether they were classified as "in combat" or not. We're also talking about a gender issue here because only male veterans are considered as being "in combat."

So if McCain has his way, the disabled female veterans who stand beside the male combat veterans and carry the same weapons and fight the wame war....WILL BE EXCLUDED from VA medical care!!!

DUH!!! This is purely discrimination against all disabled female veterans because of this "good ole boy" system. It has NOTHING to do with your claims of small business owners paying "XYZ" for health insurance.

Please if you ARE NOT a veteran and obviously don't understand what WE veterans face each and every day with discrimination, harassment and lack of health care...then please post your non-related issues on another blog about civilian problems.

We, veterans don't care about your personal issues about small business or any of your your "beefs" that don't pertain to veterans issues.

Life Insurance Canada said...

Really strange - republican candidate trying to lower money for army members. But anyway - I have the feeling that McCain has already lost. As a health insurance dealer in Toronto term life I am pretty interested in your future reform, because I am sure it will influence also Canadian future a lot. And with this McCain's efforts it seems you are one step more to socialized health care...
Lorne

deuddersun said...

Allow me to extend an Invitation to all Vets here to join the American Patriot Institute. Leave a coment here if interested.


http://theamericanpatriotinstitute.blogspot.com/

We're Vets. We get it.

d.

deuddersun said...

Pardon me, what I meant to say was leave a coment on the API website indicating interest. Again, the address is as follows:

http://theamericanpatriotinstitute.blogspot.com/

I came here thru a post made by one of our members, Chief, at the API website, directing me here.
If you still believe in the oath you swore, to Defend the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic... check us out.

d.