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Sunday, July 13, 2014

When Is Congress Going To Fund The VA?

Both the Senate and the House have passed bills to provide funding and "fixes" to the recent messes exposed by the recent scandal at the Phoenix VA.  Both bills are now sitting in the joint committee charged with reconciling the two bills in order to send a single one to the President for his signature.  So what's the hold-up?  Why money of course!  What else?

The Senate bill is estimated at about $38 billion, and the House bill at about $44 billion.  However, the CBO says the actual cost could reach closer to $50.  The Teabaggers in the House want to get the cost down closer to $26 billion and are insisting on offsets for the entire thing anyway.  Of course they would really like it if the thing didn't cost any money at all.  And there are the usual group of nuts screaming for privatization - as if that would be cheaper (it would NOT!)

My question is - where were all these cheapskates when they were voting for all the war supplementals?  You know the ones, $70 billion here, $80 billion there, off budget all, and nary a one with a single offset?  All for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that created all these veterans who now need all the care in the VA?

Why don't all these idiots realize that when you send people off to wars that caring for those soldiers IS a part of the cost of those wars?  That all of the amputations, and the PTSD and the huge burns and the other major shrapnel wounds and traumatic brain injuries that are the signature injuries of these two wars require care that extends for years and sometimes, often for life?  And yes, that when you promise these soldiers that when they come home you will take care of them - that you better well do it!

All vets don't use the VA system.  IF, when they get out of the military, they can find a good job with good benefits, they generally will use the private medical system.  It's easier to access, closer to home in most cases, and less of a hassle.  And even if they do use the VA, the VA bills their private insurance as the primary payer so the VA recovers the cost.  Pretty good deal for the US Taxpayer, right!

But here's the kicker.  Vets from these two wars have a really high unemployment rate.  One reason is because they are discriminated against as some employers are afraid of them.  Because of the PTSD/TBI.  They think the vets are going to show up with a gun and start shooting up the place.  So they won't hire vets.  It used to be a point of pride to hire veterans - not now.  Not these soldiers.  Too many deployments.  Too many horror stories.  The signature war wound is a mental one - a scary one.

So I guess the real question is not really when is Congress going to fund the VA - it is actually when is Congress going to do something about the exorbitant cost of medical school?  Because what we really have is a shortage of primary care doctors - not just in the VA but everywhere in the system.  And the passage and implementation of the ACA is only going to make that more abundantly clear in the months ahead.  But that's a discussion for another day.

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