Friday, June 13, 2014

VSOs and S. 2450 - McCain-Sanders Bill to Improve VA Healthcare

We have received several emails from various Veterans Organizations asking for support to contact Congress to pass S.2450, the McCain-Sanders Bill that is designed to fix the VA's current scandal growing from the situation of 40 deaths of Veterans waiting for appointments at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Medical Center. 

The FRA, for example, sent this request out:
The Senate passed (93-3) the “Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act” (S. 2450), sponsored by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Senator John McCain (Ariz.) that intends to provide veterans with quicker access to health care by allowing VA enrolled veterans that have been on waiting lists or enrolled veterans that live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to receive a “Choice Card” that allow them to go to Medicare providers, Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) and any federally qualified health care center. The bill further provides:

•     An additional $500 million to the VA to hire more doctors and nurses;
•    Authorizes 26 new VA medical facility leases;
•    Enhances authority for VA Secretary to fire senior VA executives;
•    Creates a new independent commission to review patient scheduling problems;
•    In-state tuition for veterans using GI Bill benefits; and
•    GI Bill benefits transfer to spouses of fallen troops.

 The bill now goes to the House for further consideration. Members are urged to use the Action Center to urge their Representative to support this important legislation.
We have, in response to this request, sent the following letter to most of the Veterans Service Organizations:
I urge the Veterans Service Organizations to choose another path.  First, much of the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the VA must be laid at the feet of every person who served as a member of Congress and every administration for the past 40 years.   Congress kept throwing money at the VA instead of helping to structure  and guide it.  The Presidents and their Cabinet Heads have turned a blind eye while the VA grew too big to provide the services it took on at Congressional bequest.  No one, repeat, no one was minding the store. 

Now Congress is doing it again.  They are growing a Department that is already too large to be effective. 

The VA will never, ever, be large enough, have enough staff, and be management-competent enough to care for our Veterans in the numbers we create with our military personnel requirements, no matter how much money Congress throws at it. Even if it were to become that large, how could it competently provide the requisite care and access to care?  It cannot, and never will.

The most sensible path is the simplest – issue a Veterans ID card that is the equal of Medicare’s coverage and rates…it will cover medical diagnosis and  treatment, pharmacy and lab work, and hospitalization, dental and eye care to the degree of the disability rating.  Start selling off all the superfluous real estate the VA owns, and shed most of the leases for space, most of which are bloated to several times what they should be paying.  The VA doesn’t need more doctors and nurses if this path is taken, and frankly, there are simply not enough doctors and nurses available to fill all those positions.  Please do not include the “40 mile” limit!  That is absurd.  Who will measure that distance, and how much will that cost? 

Let the VA work to care for Veterans in long term care, rehab, and prosthetics.  Allow them to also perform the C&P exams, and follow ups for periodic reviews of ratings.  Let the VA take in the homeless Vets and ask those who are unemployed to assist in the long term care of other Veterans, and to assist in the upkeep of the VA facilities!  Put them to work! 

This bill fixes nothing, and in fact, sets the stage for more problems, more scandals, and more mistreatment of Veterans – and taxpayers! 

Veterans deserve better than what the VA, Congress, and four decades of Presidents have done and not done.  And this bill is simply more of the same.  At best, it is a knee-jerk, rush to judgment. 

We should be getting  these bi-partisan legislators together and tell them to stop the needless waste of money and stop the laissez-faire approach to oversight. 

Let’s get those VA doctors and nurses out of the VA system and into the mainstream where their presence should help lower the cost of medical care for everyone.  Along with that benefit is the fact that it would mean those who administered those doctors and nurses would no long be needed, and no longer in a position to do harm to Veterans.  They do not deserve to work for the Government, or in the health care industry. 

I am a life member of many Veterans' Organizations, and I have supported them as much as possible.  I have worked with Veterans for over a decade, being actively involved in the effort to restore Blue Water Navy benefits the way Admiral Zumwalt envisioned it to be.  
And then there is the claims situation, and policy interpretation. 

I doubt that one voice will prevail upon the Veterans' Organizations to change their approach, but I would hope that others would also protest against this legislation. 

I appreciate all that the Veterans' Organizations have done for Veterans.  My shipmates are well aware of all they have done. 

I hope you can do more by working to find a saner solution than what this bill presents. 

I will be forwarding the bulk of this letter to most of the other Veterans Service Organizations national offices.  


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

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