Bush's "War On Veterans"

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a steadily increasing trend of combat casualties from Iraq. The number of people who are missing body parts and who are recovering from severe psychological problems is on the rise.

So why is Bush’s budget DECREASING care for these people? From the 2008 budget, on page 890, under “Workload”:
Provision of Veterans Health Care.--
Acute hospital care.--Costs for 2008 are estimated to be $6,984 million
for operating medical, neurological, surgical, contract and State home
hospital beds.

Estimated operating levels are:

2006 actual 2007 est. 2008 est.
Patients treated............ 528,143 548,470 553,521
Average daily census........ 8,426 8,874 8,925
Average employment.......... 31,304 31,560 34,469

Rehabilitative care.--Costs for 2008 are estimated to be $374 million
for the provision of rehabilitative care, including spinal cord
injury care.
Estimated operating levels are:

2006 actual 2007 est. 2008 est.
Patients treated............ 14,175 14,431 14,262
Average daily census........ 1,119 1,138 1,126
Average employment.......... 3,045 3,070 3,498
Do you see what happened? The budget projects a requirement of only 5,000 extra “beds” for our Veterans. Perhaps that is enough; I’m certainly not qualified in hospital logistics but it seems low to me. What really gets me riled is that the budget projects a DECREASE in rehabilitative care! Is the President doing lines in the Oval Office? Hasn’t he seen the trends? Rehabilitation for some soldiers takes years of work, and he is cutting that short!
Psychiatric care.--Costs for 2008 are estimated to be $1,034
million for the inpatient care of veterans with problems related to
mental illness, including alcohol and drug problems.
Estimated operating levels are:

2006 actual 2007 est. 2008 est.
Patients treated............ 101,895 104,194 102,807
Average daily census........ 4,394 4,141 4,038
Average employment.......... 7,507 7,876 8,392
Oh right. A DECREASE of inpatient psychiatric care by over 1,300 Vets. Current casualty numbers do not agree with this predicted trend, and there are a lot of our troops that are just barely holding it together as it is.

And here is something else… when I was Active Duty I never had to worry about medical care. If I needed a doctor, I went to sick call and was taken care of; including office visit, treatment and prescription. The only thing I had to give the doctor was my ID card. When I got back to the states and started seeing off-base doctors I had this wonderful Military insurance policy that paid for everything – the only hassle was leaving my paperwork on the base. I’d get my prescriptions from the on-base pharmacy so I didn’t even worry about a co-pay for them.

When I was active duty I noticed that the retirees didn’t have it as easy as me. They were seen “space available” in the on-base clinic, and their insurance was more complicated and costly. I didn’t think much of it then, but some of these people were retired with a medical disability, and they were not being treated with respect.

Well, that level of disrespect has gotten worse. From the budget:
Medical Care Collections Fund (MCCF).--VA estimates collections of more than $2.3 billion, representing 6 percent of available resources. VA has the authority to collect inpatient and outpatient co-payments, medication co-payments, and nursing home co-payments; authority for certain income verification; authority to recover third-party insurance payments from veterans for nonservice-connected conditions; and authority to collect revenue from enhanced use leases. These collections also include those collected from the Compensated Work Therapy Program, Compensation and Living Expenses Program, and the Parking Program.
The new budget is squeezing Veterans out of benefits – now they can collect payments from your civilian insurance for “nonservice-connected conditions”. If you slice open your finger due to PTSD flashback while chopping onions, and you require stitches, well that’s ‘non-service connected’. It’s also bullshit.

And look at the co-pays! I’ve seen VA co-pays before, and I have to tell you I have smaller co-pays for my civilian insurance! In some cases the co-pay for a bottle of pills is more than the pills would cost if purchased outright.

Okay, and now the topping on this evil cake is the Sunday Washington Post article about the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This scandal probably won't make more than 10 seconds of airtime on Fox News, but if you don’t read this article then there is no way you can say that you support the troops. From the article:
While the hospital is a place of scrubbed-down order and daily miracles, with medical advances saving more soldiers than ever, the outpatients in the Other Walter Reed encounter a messy bureaucratic battlefield nearly as chaotic as the real battlefields they faced overseas.

On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling."

Soldiers, family members, volunteers and caregivers who have tried to fix the system say each mishap seems trivial by itself, but the cumulative effect wears down the spirits of the wounded and can stall their recovery.

"It creates resentment and disenfranchisement," said Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker at Walter Reed. "These soldiers will withdraw and stay in their rooms. They will actively avoid the very treatment and services that are meant to be helpful."

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division's Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; "Lone Wolf" was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

"I thought, 'Shouldn't they contact me?' " he said. "I didn't understand the paperwork. I'd start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: 'I'm your case manager. Where have you been?'

"Well, I've been here! Jeez Louise, people, I'm your hospital patient!"

Like Shannon, many soldiers with impaired memory from brain injuries sat for weeks with no appointments and no help from the staff to arrange them. Many disappeared even longer. Some simply left for home.
I am so disgusted with 59,054,087 Americans. Hopefully most of you have come to your senses now. But if you still think that Bush supports the troops, that his is good for America, and that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, then you deserve him for a leader.

Yes, this has degenerated into a rant against Bush supporters – and I know that many people would automatically discount my words because of that. Frankly I no longer care what the Peterbilt-hat-wearing population thinks. Go back to your O’Reilly / Limbaugh / Coulter yellow ribbon church potluck dinner pep rally and keep feeling good for yourselves. The rest of us are picking up the shovels to muck out the mess that you left in the stables.

Personally, I’m going to ask my representative why the hell he isn’t helping me do something to keep my fellow Vets off of skid row. I think we all owe them more than that.


Anonymous said...

Good rant. My niece is currently on a rampage about the treatment of our wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital. I have sent her a link to your article.

Anonymous said...

Read the fine print and also use the term between the lines. With over 20000 military veterans from the beginning of fiscal year 2007 to now, and the projected number of beds decreasing from now into the 2008 fiscal year, he is really taking money away from the VA, not adding only 5000 beds to the nationwide numbers of available spaces, but rather decreasing them.