Will the NEW veterans receive care???

  1. Article & Essay: Bush's War Against U.S. Military Veterans

    As President Bush pours money into the military, he also reduces money to military veterans.
    By Frederick Sweet

    Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, a Navy veteran and winner of the Silver Star in the Vietnam War, sent a letter July 30 to President George W. Bush requesting a reversal of his new policy of withholding information of Veteran Administration benefits from veterans and their families. Bush ordered VA centers around the country to cease informing veterans and their families about government health care services and to stop recruiting new veterans to use them.

    The VA is obliged to provide medical services to all veterans who have service-connected disabilities and then to all veterans that are indigent -- first those with combat injuries and then those who are destitute. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has the discretion, however, to offer eligibility to more veterans. In 1996 during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, Congress instructed the VA to expand its eligibility to include all veterans, not just those who are combat disabled or indigent. These additional veterans, including those with civilian injuries, are given a lower priority.

    In his letter, Kerry also called for the resignation of Laura J. Miller, a deputy undersecretary for health for operations and management, who is carrying out Bush's draconian VA policy. But Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi said he directed Miller to send the memo, and he rejected Kerry's call for Miller's resignation.

    When Principi was confirmed as Secretary by a unanimous vote of the Senate, he had said about veterans: "America now reaps the fruit of the service of 24 million veterans. However, their service imposes upon us a reciprocal obligation. The president-elect has charged me with the mission of transforming that obligation into the benefits and services earned by generations of veterans. I am proud to respond to that call, just as those veterans responded when their country called upon them."

    Defending his response to Kerry, Principi said, "We have a serious situation in the VA, and I think it is irresponsible to strongly recruit for new enrollees when we cannot meet the expectations and the needs for the people currently enrolled.... To me it would just be irresponsible and lead to unfulfilled expectations."

    According to an August 1, 2002 report in the Boston Globe, Kerry told his Senate colleagues: ''I hope the administration is going to keep America's promise to our veterans.... It's almost so obvious that it should go without saying, but I hope that this [Bush's VA policy] is going to be reversed immediately."

    In Miller's memo, which Veterans Administration officials leaked to Kerry and The Recorder of Greenfield, Massachusetts, the deputy undersecretary highlighted the growing strains on the VA. Miller said the department has received "very conservative budget guidance for 2004," and is risking its goal of a maximum 30-day wait for veterans' services.

    "We're in a time of war," Ralph Cooper, executive director of the Veterans Benefits Clearinghouse in Boston, said. "What kind of message are you sending to combatants with a memo like [Miller's]?"

    Last month, as part of a $5.1 billion budget package, Congress included $275 million for veterans' medical care that would have helped to cover VA expenses. President Bush, however, labels the bill "loaded with pork" that he will reject. According to the Washington Post, Bush is rejecting the $5.1 billion Congressional authorization (including the $275 million earmarked for veterans' care) to teach lawmakers a lesson about what he considers overspending. Bush did sign, however, a $28.9 billion bill for supplementing homeland security and defense funds.

    According to Tom Materazzo, an Army veteran of World War II and commissioner of Veteran Services for Boston, "If you said publicly to America that we're trying to ration veterans' services -- and what else is it? -- no one would like how that sounds. The cure is to provide the money."

    In an earlier address to the Disabled American Veterans, National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson, referred to the more than one-third of America's homeless people who are veterans: "On any given night in America, more than 275,000 homeless men and women are veterans. That's the equivalent of 18 infantry divisions on the streets of this great nation with no place to call home -- quite literally, an army of homeless veterans. And that is simply intolerable."

    Wilson concluded, "Just as we don't leave our wounded behind on the battlefield, we must not leave our homeless veterans behind abandoned on the streets of our cities."

    Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
  2. 40 Comments

  3. by   Grace Oz
    My God! I'm flabbergasted! How shameful that your veterans are treated so badly. Mind you, here in Australia, our vets have to fight like crazy to have their rightful entitlements afforded to them.
    Perhaps those men & women who are presently in Iraq need to be informed of how they WONT be cared for once the government has used them as cannon fodder & thrown them out!!! For I truly believe that's exactly what politicans do... use defence service personnel as cannon fodder! They don't give a hoot about them. I've been tempted to stand in front of our own recruiting office here & hold a placard ststing just that. Inform the potential recruits just how they WONT be looked after by the government once they are in need post defence service. It's about time people stood up & took governments to task in the matter of how veterans are treated. Here in Australia there has just been a recent enquiry into veterans entitlements & the findings of the so called; CLARKE REPORT, do NOTHING to improve the lot of our veterans.Our veterans entitlements have eroded away to practically below the poverty line! The Totally & Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) pension paid to our veterans is laughable.
    I feel so sorry for those who serve their country, yes, sure, they DO get paid to do so... However, what they get paid is a pittance to the private corporate sector AND the danger is FAR greater in most instances. That governments "reward" our service people with "salad dressing" ( ribbons, medals etc,) is more an insult than anything. Akin to a child getting a gold star for good work in school! I'm sure most service people / veterans would prefer to be properly taken care of financially & health wise, than have "salad dressings"!!.....
    Oh, I could go on & on. It's a topic close to my heart. Hubby is a vet & son is currently serving!
    Let's hope for peace & soon!...
  4. by   jnette
    Thanx, Brownsms, for posting this. It has always been a real sore issue with me. I simply cannot comprehend how we can justify the total lack of concern and appreciation and compensation of those brave ones. It sickens me to see a veteran so utterly disregarded.

    It causes me to ponder the words now being spoken , about how greatly appreciated our troops are, how great a sacrifice, the pride of the nation, etc., etc., etc. Of COURSE they are NOW while they are needed to go in... but how soon will they be forgotten once they return? Where will the thank you's be THEN from our gov't. ? Will they again refute any claims of war contracted dieases, be ever so slow in addressing veterans' concerns as the case has been for far too long? Are the chemsuits they've been issued TRULY in the best working order? I have heard many vets say that indeed they are not. And that they would not return to war with the currently available equipment (PPE). How sad is that? This just really breaks my heart. Pat these young guys and women on the back.. all smiles.. when we send them to war, and when they come back with injuries, disease, etc., attempt to invalidate any claims, sweep things under the rug, drag out the compensation issues to the max.... this is simply WRONG.
  5. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Seeing as the "old" vets have often either received sub-par care or been denied they have a problem ala Agent Orange Sicknesses or Gulf War Syndrome, I cannot fathom why any of you find folks would be shocked by this at all!!!!!!
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    Not shocked, but sad and angry.
    The Gulf War Veterans Association spokesperson is a nurse. Their site is extensive with practical help.
    Yesterday they stated on the radio that, "About 400,000 of the 700,000 veterans who were on the ground have dies or are too sick to work."
    Last edit by pickledpepperRN on Mar 27, '03
  7. by   Brownms46
    As a Vietnam ERA Viet, that is service connected, and you can bet I feel more than outrage! I feel stabbed in the back!!! I have only used the VA's services once or twice since I was discharged. The lines, and long waits to be seen were a total turn off! I have seen vets come early in the morning, or to spend the entire day waiting to be seen!!

    I'm supposed to be seen q 6mos...but right now I have my own health insurance, and I don't have to put up with the substandard care. Also my disablity is not a problem at present. But many vets are not so lucky, and I never know in the future what care I will need, so I'm very angry!!!
  8. by   jnette
    Originally posted by spacenurse
    Not shocked, but sad and angry.
    Ditto. And I might add ASHAMED to that as well. It is a disgrace.

    I have been grateful and priveleged to have had numerous opportunities to speak with a great many vets (as I, too, am one)... both old and young. I work with one now, and he has been getting the run-around ever since he was medically discharged 2 years ago. This little guy served in Korea, the Gulf, more than did his part. Now he's getting screwed. I weep when I see the "old" vets.. all wrinkled and whiteheaded, and imagine them back in their prime and how valiantly they fought and served...the contributions they made, and the sacrifice.

    WHERE'S THE THANKS ??? To take away what little compensation and healthcare they now receive? With this as a precedent, what can we expect for those now serving, sacrificing, giving their best and their all? aaaaaaaaaarghh !!!
    Last edit by jnette on Mar 27, '03
  9. by   nurs4kids
    This reminds me of my experience with vets..

    my pshch rotation in nursing school was at a VA hospital. About the only thing we did was interview the vets and write a report. Of 60 students in our class who interviewed 2-3 vets in a 4 week period, we had three vets with authentic psych problems. Every other vet interviewed (sometimes twice) would straight out tell us why they were there..
    to qualify for disability (PTSD)..."to get a check". I thought this as pathetic as those standing in the welfare line for their check. These were strong able-bodied men. They'd talk to us with as much intelligence and normalcy as your average man, then would go to their group meetings and act like they'd just walked off the front-line yesterday.

    I did a med-surg rotation at another VA hospital, and did find the care sub-standard. Not because of the docs or the nurses, but because of the out-dated equipment. Also saddening, was the lack of family visiting these men. Many of them had no family. My overall impression of this institution was the same as that of the county hospital where I also did a med-surg rotation. The care there was also sub-standard with outdated equipment and a nurse/pt ratio that was dangerous (prior to a nsg shortage).

    I have mixed feelings about this issue of veterans..
    If they are injured in wartime, sure we should give them only the best of health-care for life. However, do we owe them a lifetime of benefits for serving a mere 4 yrs of peacetime service? That'd break the bank for sure. How many employers offer you lifetime insurance or pensions after just 4 yrs of service? After 30yrs of service for that matter??

    My dad served 4 yrs in the Army back in the late 50's. He injured his back and knee during this time. Temporary injuries that only caused problems with arthritis later. He has never once, since leaving the service, sought the services of the gov't. His feeling is that he joined for 4 yrs because he feels that is the duty of every young man..a sort of duty to country. He does not feel like that four years of his service should turn into a life-time of his country serving him. I guess I agree with him.

    Figure up what a service man/woman is paid through salary and benefits in a 4yr term. Then figure in lifetime medical coverage. Where will all this money come from?? Yes, we owe our life-time servicemen and those injured during conflict. I'm not so sure about the rest. A great majority of our service men and women never see active combat.
  10. by   SharonH, RN
    That's outrageous.
  11. by   pickledpepperRN
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by nurs4kids
    [B]This reminds me of my experience with vets..

    my pshch rotation in nursing school was at a VA hospital. About the only thing we did was interview the vets and write a report. Of 60 students in our class who interviewed 2-3 vets in a 4 week period, we had three vets with authentic psych problems. Every other vet interviewed (sometimes twice) would straight out tell us why they were there..
    to qualify for disability (PTSD)..."to get a check".

    My psych rotation was in a private institution as well as the VA. This was many years ago. Many did seem normal until reading that the nice middle aged woman with a good job, for example, had gone into her suburban neighborhood naked with an ax and destroyed the parked cars. She later paid her neighbors tens of thousands of dollars. I found thst out from a nursing instructor who took a class there the following semester.

    I have a hard time believing a "normal" person would want to be labeled mentally ill.
    Our "skid row" is predominantly vets. Now most were in Viet Nam.
    They must not be OK or they woud not choose to live in a cardboard box, eat from trash cans, and urinate in public. I see very sick people who refuse care every time I do jury duty. Generalized edema, fleas in their beard, and infected areas on skin. They are not OK.
    Last edit by pickledpepperRN on Mar 27, '03
  12. by   Brownms46
    You know when you make a promise to someone, you ought to figure before you make the promise, whether or not you can keep it! You don't wait until after the person fullfills their obiligations to decide you can't fullfill yours!.

    Veteran have long watched their promised benefits be whittled away, and discarded! They didn't ask, or demand, they were offered these benefits, and have every right to have those benefits delivered as promised!

    When you enter into any agreement, you expect that agreement to be upheld! You don't got to work and say...well I just wanted to do my good deed for the day, and ooh don't worry about the pay you promised me. It's ok...I don't really need it!

    Yeah right!

    Service connected and retired veterans, have seen their bennifts erod into next to nothing! And for the bennifits they do get, are only received after waiting many times for months or even years! The claims process can be a nightmare for anyone let alone an ill veteran, and I feel it's totally appaling! VETERANS BENEFITS are not welfare! They're benefits PROMISED for service to a supposedly grateful country, and should be HONORED!
    Last edit by Brownms46 on Mar 27, '03
  13. by   pickledpepperRN
    Boy, thank you.
    I didn't even notice what i missed!

    September 27, 2002
    The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
    Secretary of Defense
    Department of Defense
    The Pentagon
    Washington, DC 20301
    Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:
    On September 16, 2002, NBC Nightly News ran its fourth segment concerning the unfair law that military longevity retirees must forfeit a dollar of retirement pay for every dollar received for VA disability compensation. Featured was Hank Nix, who is a military retiree and a combat-wounded veteran of the Korean War, and former prisoner of war.
    Because Mr. Nix was unfortunate enough to get shot while serving his country, he cannot receive his full military retirement. Absurd as that may be, Dr. Chu of the Department of Defense (DOD) stated that it was proper that such a policy be upheld. According to his logic, if DOD were to pay retirees the full amount they've earned, our armed forces would not be equipped to fight in Afghanistan. Charles Abell, also of DOD, reiterated Dr. Chu's comments in an article in the American Forces Press Service.
    DOD would have to pay retirees, such as Mr. Nix, their full retirement had they not been injured as a result of their military service. Therefore, using the same logic, it would be normal to assume that had thousands of military retirees not been injured, we would not be able to fight the War on Terror.
    It is outrageous that government officials use the War on Terror to justify unfair treatment of brave citizens who fought in wars past. Heroes such as Mr. Nix have already sacrificed, in blood, on behalf of our nation's freedom. They should not further have to sacrifice their quality of life because of an archaic law that allows the government to escape its debt to military retirees who dedicated their adult lives to service to our nation and our way of life.
    Further, it is reprehensible to imply that the men and women who dedicated their lives to serving our nation would do anything to jeopardize the well being of the members of our Armed Forces who are serving in harm's way. It is also egregious for DOD to imply that the veteran and military service organizations that support the repeal of this inequitable law would do so with callous disregard for our fellow servicemembers.
    More than 1.2 million members of the Disabled American Veterans support paying military retirees the benefits they have earned. They will not be misled into believing otherwise by inane assertions that proper and just compensation of military retirees will cause us to lose the War on Terror.
    National Commander
  14. by   nurs4kids
    Originally posted by Brownms46
    You know when you make a promise to someone, you ought to figure before you make the promise, whether or not you can keep it! You don't wait until after the person fullfills their obiligations to decide you can't fullfill yours!.

    and with THIS I TOTALLY agree