Monday, June 30, 2014

Give Veterans the Option to Find Care Close to Home

Give Veterans the Option to Find Care Close to Home

The recent scandals involving the Veterans Administration hospitals handling of medical treatment highlights what has been developing into a crisis for the last decades. Before the series of base closings in efforts to reduce government spending on non-essential military facilities, many veterans made conscious decisions to retire in geographical areas close to military installations for the proximity to free medical treatment. Since the bases have shut down, vets are in many cases forced to travel long distances for even basic care.

As an example, Grissom Air Force Base in Cass/Miami Counties in Indiana ceased active duty operations in 1994. Grissom at one time served as a Strategic Air Command facility from 1957 until 1991.  Numerous veterans retired in the surrounding area relying upon Grissom for their VA medical care. After the base closed, these retirees have been compelled to drive to Dayton, Ohio, downtown Indianapolis, or Danville, Illinois. One of my dad’s friends decided he’d just do without hearing aids rather than have somebody drive him to Danville for the VA benefits. 

There is a need to retool the entire VA so that it is more focused on the holistic care of our veterans. But one of the most critical changes should be how medical care is afforded.  Use the Medicare template, issue membership cards, negotiate fees with providers, and allow our veterans to use local doctors and hospitals. I know there are arguments that only military doctors know how to treat certain types of injuries. However, in todays’ world of modern medicine that excuse is hollow.  And ultimately, it will be more cost effective than maintaining outdated, bureaucratic laden hospitals that make people in need, those who served our nation,  travel long distances and wait untenable days, weeks or months for treatment.

And for those who believe a national health service would solve all of our medical care woes, take a look at the VA and ask yourself if this what you want for yourself and your loved ones.

This is not the first scandal to tarnish the VA in recent history if you will recall the withholding of benefits to survivors, backlogged disability claims, and failing to help place returning vets into jobs in the commercial work-force. We can and must do better.

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