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 While I am certainly no expert on the VA, or the outdated promises that have been made to our soldiers, it is pretty obvious that if we are spending $150 billion every year for 7 million people, we the taxpayers have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


Support The Proven Leader Greg Martin

For as long as our family has lived in Chattanooga, we've all chosen to live and remain in Hixson because of its incredible sense of community that emphasizes our families.  For 40 years, I've known Greg Martin as a neighbor, during his time as a Hixson Wildcat and even now as a leader on the school board.  Greg was the only school board member willing to fire Rick ... (click for more)

Wasted Tax Dollars

In the past year my $3,500.00 in property tax to the city of Chattanooga has resulted in the sanitation engineers failing to pick up my garbage a minimum of 20 times.  Recently missed two times in August and now two times in September.  As of this post it's 6:15 p.m. Friday , 09-30-16, and the stinking trash is still on the street to be picked up even after ... (click for more)

Naked Man Involved In Collision On Highway 111 Taken Into Custody

A naked man who was involved in a wreck on Highway 111 late Friday morning is facing numerous charges. At approximately 11:40 a.m., Hamilton County Sheriff deputies started to receive numerous reports that a vehicle was driving erratically on U.S. Highway 111 and that the driver was stopping his vehicle and at one point got out of his vehicle in a naked state. According to ... (click for more)

City Council Incumbents Anderson, Gilbert, Freeman, Hakeem Pick Up Papers Seeking Re-Election

Four City Council incumbents have picked up papers for the March 7 city election. The latest getting qualifying petitions are Russell Gilbert in District 5, Chris Anderson in District 7 and Yusuf Hakeem in District 9. Moses Freeman in District 8 picked up earlier. Anthony Byrd is a possible challenger. Former District 7 Councilman Manny Rico has already qualified. Others ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Demolishes Soddy-Daisy 62-7 In Homecoming Blowout

Ooltewah exploded for 31 first-quarter points, kept the pedal to the metal and steamrolled Soddy-Daisy 62-7 Friday night in a Region 4-5A football whuppin’ that left the Trojans shaking their heads and the Owls celebrating an eye-popping homecoming triumph at James N. Monroe Stadium. It was Ooltewah’s sixth straight win against the Trojans and the average score in those games ... (click for more)

McCallie Routs Baylor, 42-7

McCallie’s high-powered offense – averaging 45 points in its four wins prior to Friday night - is as good as advertised and it’s defense –allowing only 23 points in those four victories - is rock solid. Just ask Baylor. Thanks to a clicking-on-all-cylinders offense led by senior quarterback Robert Riddle - 181 passing yards and three touchdowns – and a defense with three ... (click for more)