Roy Exum: Woeful Care Of Veterans

Monday, December 09, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The United States spends $150 billion each year to fund the badly-maligned Department of Veterans Affairs. There are 7 million veterans who depend on the VA for health care and over 300,000 Americans who are employed at 152 medical centers across the country. It is the second-largest government agency, right behind the Pentagon, and no one is happy with it.

A recent story in the International Business Times revealed the backlog of new and reopened disability claims stands at 711,775 (it was over a million this spring) and there are 266,179 cases on appeal, with a wait that could be up to five years. So put me down as one who firmly believes we should make some big changes for the men and women who have defended our country.

I think a quick answer might be to give every veteran a Medicare plan where they could see the doctors of their choice, use local hospitals if necessary, and have access to get prescriptions at local pharmacies. I have a number of friends who must go to Murfreesboro or Nashville for treatments and services that could be done easier, faster, and more economically in Chattanooga.

I believe we could do away with the huge facilities and myriad of networks by allowing veterans to have a choice over their healthcare providers. While I am certainly no expert on the VA, or the outdated promises that have been made to our soldiers, it is pretty obvious that if we are spending $150 billion every year for 7 million people, we the taxpayers have a huge problem.

Jamie Reno, a reporter for the IBTimes, wrote, “In just the past year, we've learned about at least 21 preventable deaths of military veterans at VA facilities across the nation as well as the spread of infectious diseases at these hospitals and clinics. In addition, there is evidence of bonuses awarded to executives at troubled VA hospitals and a lengthy ongoing disability claims backlog.”

Congressman Jeff Miller (R-Fl.) is the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and he is clearly irked that Congress has set 111 requests for information to the VA and still doesn’t have the answers it needs.

“It’s become apparent to me and many others that there is a culture of complacency among the agency’s middle management,” he told the IBTimes writer. “These mid-level managers know that as federal employees there is a good chance they’ll have their position longer than I will be chairman of oversight, and longer than the VA secretary will have his job. They’re evidently willing to just wait out those of us who are trying to change things, and unfortunately the consequences are as serious as life and death for our veterans.”

Miller also told the IBTimes, “When I see these deaths occur at VA medical centers that were preventable and people associated with that center getting a bonus, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that lower-level employees are watching all this and feel as if they don’t have to be transparent either. It is an embedded culture."

A recent CNN report told of a VA medical center in Columbia, S.C., where six veterans died after waiting months for tests and treatment. Five more died the same way in Pittsburgh. There were four avoidable deaths in Atlanta, and three in Memphis. Of those in Tennessee, one was from a lethal dose of painkiller, another because the staff did not administer the correct drugs, and the third from a drug allergy that had been noted in the files.

“As we dig through the medical centers, we find that a number of deaths could have easily been prevented; it’s inexcusable,” said the Congressman and he is right; our veterans should not be trapped in a broken system but should instead be able to get health care of their choice. Our Department of Veterans Affairs should get out of the healthcare industry.

A Medicare card seems like an easy fix but with 70 percent of California doctors just refusing to take part in the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange, perhaps there is a better alternative. Just know this, our veterans health system is just as big a mess.

royexum@aol.com 


Roy Exum: Let’s ‘Pay It Forward’

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, this at a Starbucks coffee store located at 2186 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg, Fla.,  an unidentified woman who was first in line at the drive-through window, politely told the drive-through window clerk she would like to “pay it forward.” The clerk checked the next order – it was a caramel macchiato – and the first customer paid for both her ... (click for more)

Families In Public Schools Fight Common Core, But Won't Get Out

The alarm among Christians who patronize government-run schools has a clear cause. Common Core, the name of the latest spate of reform, promises further control by Washington. What are moms and dads to make of the opposition to Common Core, particularly if they are Christian or home educators? How worked up should we get?  We’ll let Tony Perkins of a Washington G Street ... (click for more)

Jury Finds In Favor Of Texas Sheriff In Suit Brought By Chattanooga Photographer

A Federal Court jury on Friday found in favor of a Texas sheriff and his chief deputy who had been sued by a Chattanooga photographer. The jury in the courtroom of Judge Curtis Collier awarded no damages to Donna Johnson. In his closing argument after a two-week civil trial, attorney John Anderson said, "This is about the Fourth Amendment." Attorney Anderson represented Ms. ... (click for more)

Justin Wilkins Selected As Deputy Chief Of Staff For Mayor Berke

Native Chattanoogan Justin Wilkins will serve as Mayor Andy Berke's deputy chief of staff, it was announced Friday. Mr. Wilkins has spent the last several years serving as the Tennessee state director for multiple advocacy and electoral organizations, including Organizing for America and Organizing for Action. Prior to that, he worked as project manager at Profit Plans LLC ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain "Grounds" East Hamilton, 28-19

Signal Mountain was determined to run the football and take time off the clock Friday night in the second half of its 28-19 non-district victory over rival East Hamilton before a standing-room-only crowd at Hurricane Hill. “That’s our kind of football,” Eagles coach Bill Price said after the season opening game for both teams. “It was a tough football game and we just got out ... (click for more)

Maynor Leads Soddy Daisy Past Hixson, 49-36

If you wanted to see a lot of offense in a high school football game, then you should have been at  Soddy Daisy's Robert Talaska Field Friday night. Defense was all but non-existent on either side as the host Trojans took advantage of five touchdown passes from southpaw senior quarterback Hunter Maynor to outlast the Hixson Wildcats, 49-36. The last two minutes of the ... (click for more)