Unfortunately, the proposed draining of the VA budget is the tip of the iceberg. The Bush blueprint would unjustifiably cut 2,200 full-time VA personnel. VA’s workforce is already so undersized that wards are closed and veterans with service-connected disabilities wait weeks, sometimes months, to receive a medical appointment. Further, a claim for such benefits can take months, even years, to be processed, due to a shortage of claims handlers.
The plan gets worse. The White House budget calls for legislation that would force 700,000 military retirees to make a choice. Those military retirees who are eligible for treatment in both VA and DOD health care systems would be forced to choose either system to serve them.
Already, a half-million retirees with service-connected disabilities sacrifice a portion of their retired pay equal to their VA disability compensation The administration’s proposal would force military retirees also to forfeit their health care benefits they earned, adding insult to injury.
The administration further assumes that a slight increase in VA co-payments will force nearly 100,000 “higher-income, non-disabled” veterans to leave the VA system. That’s an unbelievably pessimistic estimate. And it’s one of the stanchions of a weak VA budget.
Tricare’s problems and the administration’s inadequate VA health care budget are a call to action. It’s time to honor America’s veterans by fighting for them. The national security consequences of our actions are fairly obvious: a bright, physically fit young American will not assume the great personal risks or military service today and be forgotten tomorrow.
It’s time to honor America’s veterans by fighting for them. Urge your members of Congress to do everything they can to fund broader access to quality health care for veterans.
Ray G. Smith