One year after an explosive Veterans Affairs scandal sparked national outrage, the number of veterans now on wait lists to be treated for everything from Hepatitis C to post-traumatic stress has gone up 50 percent.
Wait times for care have reportedly increased due to a growing number of requests from aging Vietnam veterans and those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to CostOfWar.Org,
“The history of previous wars shows that the cost of caring for war veterans rises for several decades and peaks 30 to 40 years or more after a conflict. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are utilizing VA medical services and applying for disability benefits at much higher rates than in previous wars. Based on current patterns of benefit claims and medical usage, it is estimated that the total present value of such costs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans over the next 40 years is in the range of $600 billion to $1 trillion.”
VA leaders say the department is now facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall, which could make wait times even longer in the future. Veterans are already unhappy with the department's services as they are. A joint poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that more than half of the 2.6 million Americans dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health care problems from their service. Almost 60 percent of those polled say the VA is doing an “only fair” or “poor” job in addressing their problems.
After the VA scandal broke last year, the department, which serves 8.7 million veterans, received $15 billion to decrease wait times and hire more doctors and nurses. Veterans were also granted a program in which they could seek private care if wait times for appointments were too long.
Since then, the VA has been doing its best. It has handled 2.7 million additional appointments, increased its capacity by more than 7 million patient visits per year, and authorized more than 2.9 million veterans to receive private care. But still, it isn't enough.
Agency officials plan on petitioning Congress this week to see if they can shift money into programs running short of cash. An email statement by VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson says,
“We are simply asking Congress, once again, for the budget flexibility to use our existing funds to provide Veterans with the care in the community they have already earned.”
With Obama authorizing the deployment of 450 additional US troops to Iraq, I have to ask:
If the VA can't take care of the veterans we already have, why would America send more soldiers to war? Discuss in the comments section below.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.
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