The following is a guest blog from Carl Young. Mr. Young is the Chapter Vice President of Vietnam Veterans of America, Ferndale Chapter 781.
By Carl Young
When is someone going to ask Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama, about the VA’s health care programs? I don’t hear any of them talking about a pending bill-H.R.2415 and it’s companion bill S.2639-that could finally give some assurance of quality health care for all of America’s veterans.
" The Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act" is currently under review in the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. It’s been there for a while as our congressional representatives fear they might lose their oversight ability, which in my book would be a good thing because of their history of under-funding and even delaying budgets.
There’s no doubt that the haphazard funding congress has been giving needs more review. One of the original co-sponsors of H.R.2415, Representative Bart Stupak (MI), has come out and said that the bill would address the problem by changing the way veteran’s health care is funded in Congress.
"The brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our nation should not need to fight so hard each year for the health care and benefits they have earned. The history of cuts and overdue budgets for our veteran’s health care is no way to honor our service members," Stupak said in a recent Associated Press release.
George Washington certainly had it right when he said that,"... the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directionally proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
The history of cuts and overdue budgets for our veterans health care today, is no way to honor them. "It is illogical to put a cap on VA funding when it is impossible to put a cap on the number of those wounded and injured in service to their country.," said Larry Scott, founder and editor of VA Watchdog.org.
It’s obvious that current system needs to be replaced with a new funding system that is more realistic, like one that is indexed to medical inflation and the per capita use of the VA health care system.
Some have tried to argue that passing this legislation would take away oversight authority. In fact one could argue that this funding mechanism would provide our worried legislators with more time to oversee all veterans’ program areas. So in spite of claims by the U.S. Justice Department that the congress or the courts has no authority to tell the VA how to run their programs, it might be time to set them straight.
Recently U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, called for the resignation of Dr. Ira Katz, mental Health Officer for the Department of veteran Affairs, following reports that Dr. Katz was involved in efforts to cover up the number of veterans attempting suicide.
Why hasn’t our Congress been more aggressive in overseeing why the VA hasn’t done more to prevent suicide among our veterans? They need to be transparent and they need to spend the funding they get on programs as intended.
A recent study released by the Rand Corportation estimates that 300,000 U.S. troops-about 20 percent of those deployed-are suffering from Depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from having served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I am asking Congressman Thompson (D-CA) to co-sponsor the bill and help bring it out of The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and into the light of day. I encourage everyone to write Congressman Thompson and to ask for his support on H.R.2415. Let’s spoil their little game of "let-it-die-in-committee," and let our elected officials know we care about our veterans.
The only way to get a politician’s interest is to show them that their constituents-that’s us-want the right thing to be done for our service men and women.
I leave you with one more thought; always look at the way a politician actually votes-and not by what he tells you from behind a podium.