Roy Exum: Woeful Care Of Veterans

Monday, December 9, 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 While I am certainly no expert on the VA, or the outdated promises that have been made to our soldiers, it is pretty obvious that if we are spending $150 billion every year for 7 million people, we the taxpayers have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 



Kyle Hedrick For Circuit Court Judge

I am writing to publicly offer my endorsement of Kyle Hedrick for Circuit Court Judge.  Kyle has already shown that he has the temperament needed for this seat.  He rose to the top during the governor’s selection process and anyone that has been around him can understand why.  Selection of a judge should be done with several things in mind.  I have found ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Unmask Brain Injuries

I have a special friend, a real special guy who had a childhood others would envy. One night during a party at his University of Alabama fraternity, he and some other brothers threw a thug out who was trying to crash the party. Who would have ever guessed the jerk would come back with a butcher knife and slam the business end through the promising kid’s brain. After weeks of touch-and-go, ... (click for more)

Federal Jury Finds Gillispie Guilty Of 6 Counts In Sex Trafficking Case

A federal jury on Wednesday morning found Corrie Gillispie guilty of six counts in his sex trafficking trial. Gillispie was ruled guilty of two counts of sex trafficking, two counts of kidnapping, one count of transporting a person across state lines for prostitution, and one count of money laundering.  The panel found him not guilty of another charge of transporting ... (click for more)

Attorney Says There Was No Valid Reason To Euthanize Monteagle Family's Pet Raccoon Boomer

A Chattanooga attorney who specializes in wildlife cases says there was no valid reason for health officials to have euthanized a pet raccoon belonging to a family in Monteagle. Candace Bone said the family had owned "Boomer" for three years after getting her from an approved raccoon farm. She said, "We are all devastated. He was just like a baby to us. Boomer slept between ... (click for more)

Lady Mustangs Dump Lady Owls, 2-0, On Frost's Two-Run Homer In Seventh Inning

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – After chasing Ooltewah in the District 5-3A softball standings this season, Walker Valley is now the chasee after Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over the Lady Owls on Carissa Frost’s game-winning two-run homer with two out in the seventh inning. “It’s a huge win for us and our program,” Walker Valley coach Lauren Limburg said.   The diminutive Frost, ... (click for more)

Painter's Game-Winning Hit Lifts Red Bank, 6-5

I’m sure you’ve heard the classic line of “It’s not over until it’s over” and also the one about “it’s not over until the fat lady sings.” Take your pick, but either one would have applied as that was certainly the case at the Red Bank softball field Wednesday evening. The Lionettes won the game with the Whitwell Lady Tigers by a final score of 6-5, but it took nine innings ... (click for more)