Dignified Veteran Care

veterans1Since immediately after the United States Civil War the healthcare for military veterans was established. It started by administering to the medical needs of all military veterans in “veterans homes” throughout the country. It carried through until after WWI. In 1930 the Veterans Administration was founded to consolidate and care for the medical, pension, and various rehabilitation project benefits that our veterans were guaranteed by congress. Near the end of WWII the veteran population from WWII was 14,000,000 and the aging WWI veteran population was 4,000,000. This is when the first bottlenecks in medical care for our veterans were noticed. In response President Roosevelt, and later President Truman decentralized the VA hospitals and care facilities from 54 hospitals to 171 and over 700 outpatient facilities throughout the country.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was established by President Reagan in 1988 because the veteran population was approximately one third of the U.S. population and needed an administrator who had direct access to the President. In 1995 President Clinton initiated reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this major reform period from mid-1995 until 2000, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) implemented universal primary care. They closed 55% of their acute care hospital beds, but increased patients treated by 24%. They had a 48% increase in ambulatory care visits, and they decreased staffing by 12%. Of serious concern the VHA had 10,000 fewer employees in 2000 than in 1995, but yet they had a 104% increase in patients treated since 1995. Somehow they managed to maintain the same cost per patient-day, while all other facilities’ costs had risen over 30% to 40% during the same period. It seems saving money was the goal, and not helping our veterans. But that is to be expected from a draft-dodger president, right.

The VA and VHA were left to decay from within after President Clinton’s devastating reforms. From 2000 until the present 2014 the VHA has become greatly burdened by bottlenecks, inadequate care, and even libelous care where patients have died or contracted HIV, hepatitis “C”, or worse. Even more alarming is the fraudulent act of hiding data and findings needed to assess the efficiency of the VHA. The director of the VA (a 4 star retired Army General and Vietnam vet) has now resigned, and stories are breaking about outlandish office furniture purchases amounting to a half billion dollars and more. It seems like the VA is a “good ole boys” group staffed by those never knowing the military life personally.

I’m a Desert Storm war veteran, and served my country on active duty for 20 years until 1998. I’ve seen veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, brain injuries, amputations, and a host of emotional and mental disorders. Not one of them ever said to me that the VA/VHA treated them well. In fact, they all stated that the VA/VHA treated them indifferently and did not have time to see them. They told me the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was all about giving them prescriptions. Prescriptions like anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-sleep deprivation, and narcotic pain medications. True physical, and mental  rehabilitation not requiring drugs was seldom noted. As a result I have witnessed the aftermath of their reform policies. Some committed suicides, and others became alcoholic or opiate addicted. It seems their objective is to get the veteran out of their office as soon as possible with drugs that keep the veteran numb. What the VHA is doing is a travesty. It is undignified, disrespectful and dishonorable to our veterans, especially our war veterans. The VHA hides their practices by “cooking the books”, and explaining away their “standard operating procedures” as part of the “new reform” rules.

The VA needs serious, quality direction at the top and throughout their sub-level administrations. They should be staffed by ex-military and military family members that know the military life from a personal point of view. The VHA needs an antiseptic enema in the worst possible way. Care of our veteran population starts with the care-giver. I watched a friend of mine dying in a VA hospital bed at John Cochran VA Hospital in St. Louis, MO get treated by the nurse as though it was a major burden to stop talking to her boy-friend in the hall and aid my friend. When she finally did help him with his catheter she left his robe up for all to see his manhood and left his door wide open allowing passersby to see his personal business. She should have been fired but she probably got a “Clinton Reform” bonus. His bathroom was filthy, and the staff were all half-assed jokers, laughing with each other and carrying on. It was sickening to see my friend dying like that. It was “undignified, disrespectful and dishonorable” to my friend. I desperately want to see positive change in the care and facilities that care for our “vet’s”. I want to see most of the VA, and VHA liberal administration fired because most of them never spent a day in the military and have no clue about true honor and respect. This kind of serious change begins with us “veteran-voters”. Our vote counts because we exceed over 44% of our population. Get out and vote. Show them we mean business!

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