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 While I am certainly no expert on the VA, or the outdated promises that have been made to our soldiers, it is pretty obvious that if we are spending $150 billion every year for 7 million people, we the taxpayers have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


Plausible Explanations - And Response

The revelation that the Trump organization from the very genesis of the presidential campaign maintained regular and repeated, if not constant, contact with Russian agents raises many questions. They are like the spokes of a wheel revolving around the one central question: Why was the Trump campaign communicating with the Russians?   What are the plausible explanations ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Never Write When Angry

There are two truisms that I have wrestled with since I was insulted and affronted by an angry group of parents and supporters on Thursday night at the monthly meeting of the Hamilton County School Board. I was incensed by the behavior of those representing the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) and, yes, I thought it was the most foolish display of arrogance I can remember ... (click for more)

Man, Child Killed In Crash On Highway 136 In Walker County; 2nd Child Seriously Injured

  A man and an unrestrained five-year-old child were killed when a vehicle went out of control on Highway 136 in Walker County on Saturday. A 10-year-old in the car was seriously injured. The driver was thrown from the van and was dead at the scene. The four-year-old was trapped in the vehicle and also died at the wreck site at Ponder Creek Road. The Georgia State ... (click for more)

2 People Shot After Domestic Dispute In Brainerd; Corey Moon Taken Into Custody On Saturday Night

Two people were shot during a domestic dispute in Brainerd late Friday night.   Chattanooga Police responded at 11:17 p.m. to the 4700 block of Rogers Road on a shooting. The following are the preliminary facts of that investigation.   Officers were able to locate two victims, Cortez Moon, 23, and Terri Dossett, 45, suffering from non-life threatening gunshot ... (click for more)

Bradley Runs Away With Another AAA State Crown

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Bradley’s Ben Smith may be one of the most excitable wrestling coaches on earth, especially when his Bears are in the middle of a tough tournament. Such was the case here at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Center this weekend as the Bears successfully defending their traditional title at the TSSAA State Meet as they finished the three-day event ... (click for more)

Father Ryan Wins Fourth Straight D-II Mat Title

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Father Ryan wrestling team can now honestly boast “four-peat” when anyone asked about the most recent Division II state wrestling tournament. The Purple Irish won the state duals two weeks ago and they added another traditional title here at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Center Saturday night. Saturday’s victory is the 21 st overall for ... (click for more)