Army, combat, soldiers, veterans

Sam's Vision For Veterans Affairs

The Plan To Improve Veterans Services

As a U.S. Army veteran of 29 years and a disabled veteran, I know firsthand where the VA has failed and where it has succeeded. The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act was enacted in 2014 to resolve issues regarding access and accountability. Unfortunately, this act has not succeeded in bringing about the change that it was intended to. There is no better example of this than our own VA clinic here in El Paso. According to recent studies conducted by the Office of Veterans Affairs, the El Paso VA clinic received a score of 1 star out of 5 for the second time. The study included many factors such as death, infection rates, and wait times. This is unacceptable and must be fixed immediately.

There are several ways that the VA can resolve these issues. First, the VA must be funded appropriately. As is typical in the medical industry today, under-staffing to preserve the bottom line exists and must be eliminated. Our veterans have sacrificed life, family, and friends to defend our Constitution. The governments disregard for our soldiers is not only disrespectful but is inexcusable. The battlefield standard of “No Soldier Left Behind” must also be applied to the soldiers medical care after their service is over. The first phase is critical in completing the second.

Second, the VA must resolve all access issues.  Decisions based on specific health care requirements should be the deciding factor instead of issues with distance concerns or administrators who view veterans as just another customer. An often forgotten aspect of a veterans experience is the slow processing of payments and medical claims, which in some cases, create credit issues that affect more than just the veterans health. Properly staffed clinics and administration offices will resolve all access issues that are currently plaguing the VA health care system.

Finally, accountability must be recognized within VA institutions. Annual studies that show where the improvements and failures are taking place must be made known to the public. Without a clear standard for accountability, the VA can easily regress to lower standards than where it is currently. Like the private health care sector, the VA must have the ability to fire substandard employees and hire based on qualifications that are necessary for the success of the clinic.

The bottom line is clear and easy to understand. Decisions on where and how to care for veterans should not be done at the political or institutional level, where cost is the priority. If the government can spend billions of dollars to send our men and women into combat for years at a time, then the government can fund an equal amount to the medical care of the men and women who have served. To give credit where it is due, the VA has improved the services that it provides to veterans with trauma and service connected conditions such as PTSD and other psychological issues. With the drastically increasing number of veterans requiring health care the government must invest more into the care that they need. It is time to put our veterans first and bureaucracy last. Tomorrow is too late for many of those who have served and put their lives at risk for our freedom. We must leave no soldier behind!