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January 7, 2013

Now that our new and re-elected senators and representatives have been chosen, and seated, our president re–elected and that excuses quelled, it is time for action. We can only hope that those newly elected, and those that were re-elected will realize the sacrifices the members of the military and their families have made and will continue to make! They need to recognize prior service members who received “service-connected injuries,” whether acute or from developing physical health problems. Congress needs to realize that not all health problems to military members are from bullets or explosions.

The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to be expanded to allow for proper care of veterans. Not only does the Department of Veterans Affairs lack facilities, there is an extreme shortage of medical personnel.

Historically, the United States government has – from inception to present – seen fit to send its people into battle. However, when conflicts ended, the health and welfare of soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen was placed at the bottom of funding priorities during budgeting processes. Since the revolution, our veterans have had to take strong actions to continually remind our government, and the people, of their health and retirement funding needs. Because of the all-volunteer forces, is even more important for the government to step up and except the responsibilities. Promises are made and broken when financially convenient.

The US government, as far as the military is concerned, is a self-insured entity. This requirement takes into consideration accidental injuries and includes death. Civilian life insurance policies contain a war clause (commonly called “no war casualty”). Being self-insured, the US government also includes general health problems as well.

If, for any reason, one is medically separated from a branch of the military, that person must be evaluated again by the Veterans Administration to determine an appropriate percentage of disability. At present, the delay to be given that evaluation is 6-9 months. The wait becomes even longer if records are lost. After being diagnosed with a “service-connected” disability, it will take an additional 60-90 days to receive an appointment with a primary physician. After that appointment, there will be another 60-90 days or more before seeing a specialist if one’s disability requires it.

For those who serve with health problems until retirement, it is the same procedure but with a longer wait for an initial evaluation. Then, if granted a level of disability below 50%, the monetary amount granted is deducted from one’s “earned” military retirement pay (20+ years of active honorable service) and transferred to the Veterans Administration for distributing to the disabled, retired veteran.

The history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, tied to the whims of both Congress and the Executive Branch, has not been a bright one. Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs must be taken out of the political budget and placed on a sound and sustainable basis. The Department of Veterans Affairs needs the flexibility to increase medical personnel and facilities as needed in order to handle casualty workloads caused by ongoing-armed conflicts.

If the taxpayer had to pay for medical treatment of our military casualties caused by illness or physical trauma due to their service, perhaps the taxpayer would watch decisions of Congress and the Executive Branch more closely. Perhaps setting up a Veterans Administration through a Constitutional Amendment so funds could not be misused, as happened with Social Security, would be the answer. That would require the government to fund the program as a member enters the service. This system along with death benefits while on active duty would result in a system of fair and equitable benefits for those who were harmed while serving our country!


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