Veterans Affairs Next Week

The coming week should be good concerning investigations into the Veterans Affairs poor treatment of disabled veterans and veterans’ families. We will look at a few issues impacting Vietnam era veterans. We will also cover various impacts of the new spending legislation passed by the house. The White House has pledged to veto the bill that funds veterans benefits.

 

Politics Affecting Veterans Benefits

We will write a bit on Washington DC to help all of you track which politicians are actually helping veterans causes. Our hope is for you to track the issues and vote accordingly, regardless of political party affiliation.

Here are a couple old articles I wrote over a year ago about looming spending cuts and how they will impact disabled veterans.

 

Republicans Seek to Cut 1.3 Million Vets

This policy suggestion came from Congressman Paul Ryan shortly on the heals of Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s veterans snafu. Michelle Bachman proposed cutting $4 billion from disabled veterans compensation. Here, Paul Ryan suggested cutting Priority 7 & Priority 8 veterans out of the Veterans Affairs healthcare system. It would have “saved” $6 billion from the Veterans Affairs budget.

Tom Philpott, founder of Military Update and Military.com columnist, covered the issue. I covered his take, and using my calculator, realized his information came straight from the Congressional Budget Office, ver batem. No real thinking involved.

“The House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has told a veterans’ group it is studying a plan to save $6 billion annually in VA health care costs by cancelling enrollment of any veteran who doesn’t have a service-related medical condition and is not poor.”

Yes, “any veteran who doesn’t have a service-related medical condition and is not poor,” would not have health care from Veterans Health Administration. Tom Philpott copied the last line from the Congressional Budget Office report without siting the source.

But the biggest issues was that the CBO had it wrong. Veterans with service-connected disabilities can also be caught within these groups with a 0 percent disability rating. How many veterans get screwed with a 0 percent the first time around before appealing?

Additionally, the big issue was that 10 percent of that number would be left without any health care at all from the Veterans Affairs. Yes, 130,000 veterans would have been left without health care. Some of these with 0 percent and awaiting a proper disability compensation decision would not have health care. And since many of the disabling conditions are pre-existing, these veterans would be excluding from many health insurance plans.

None the less, the biggest problem was that the CBO was providing advice to the Republican Party and Paul Ryan that was based on inaccurate information. Do you trust a political party basing decisions impacting Veterans Affairs spending on bad information? Both the Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this error. Either way, the headline should have read “Healthcare Cuts Loom for 130,000 Vets.”

http://www.disabledveterans.org/2011/04/16/republicans-seek-to-cut-1-3-million-veterans/

 

Senator Burr Takes Stand Against United States Marine Corp

This is an article on Camp Lejeune and Senator Burr’s support of Marines against the denials of the Marine Corp. The denials involve responsibility for cancer from chemicals in the drinking water.

http://www.disabledveterans.org/2012/02/01/senator-burr-makes-stand-against-marines/

 

Obama, Republicans Seek $23 Billion Disability Pay Cut

Here, Obama sought to team up with Congressional Republicans to cut veterans benefits. The technique was to change the Consumer Price Index (CPI). By changing the CPI, cost of living would increase but your disability benefits would not increase by as much. This would “save” the government money that it otherwise would pay out.

http://www.disabledveterans.org/2011/07/18/obama-republicans-seek-23-billion-disability-pay-cut/

 

FOIA and Children of Vietnam Veterans

We plan to have more on children with Spina Bifida whose parents are Vietnam veterans. These Vietnam veterans, and some veterans stationed in Korea, were exposed to Agent Orange. Their children were over 3 times more likely to have Spina Bifida than other children, which needed a “legislative fix” to get care.

The solution came in 1997 but at a cost. Senator Tom Daschle proposed an offset to provide health care from the Veterans Affairs. To pay for health care for children with Spina Bifida, the Senate targeted malpractice policies of the Veterans Health Administration.

We suspect that the offset harmed disabled veterans because now, disabled veterans have a harder time getting compensated when malpractice occurs. Malpractice is now higher than ever within the Veterans Affairs because VA doctors are rarely held accountable.

Meanwhile, children with Spina Bifida have a difficult time getting the health care they are promised. Supposedly, the American people are being charged $18 million per year for the program. The Veterans Health Administration provides 90 percent of that care, leaving 10 percent of health care to the private sector. But, the VA makes it impossible to get the care.

We are suspicious there is more to the story than just this. The program is based out of the Denver Regional Office. The privacy officers have been very concerned now that DisabledVeterans.org and Vietnam Veterans of America are involved in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

http://www.vva.org/veteran/1207/agent_orange_feature.html

 

Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General

We will cover two more reports of fraud and/or mismanagement published by the Veterans Affairs.

There appears to be a trend in Veterans Affairs OIG reporting. The VA has been masking data and names to limit the ability of journalists like me from drawing effective conclusions at a glance.

Luckily, I read the entire Veterans Affairs news release and can use a calculator. My economics degree is now coming in handy. We may need the help of readers to start doing FOIA requests of the VA.

http://www.va.gov/oig/

 

Voc Rehab Survival Guide Benjamin Krause is the creator of the DisabledVeterans.org community, author of the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, and numerous other guides. 

Benjamin is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Law attorney, and a disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, Benjamin began his decade long fight for benefits after being lowballed with a 10% rating in 2002. During that fight, he received degrees from Northwestern University and  the University of Minnesota Law School while using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

You can connect with Benjamin on  Google+,  Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

So what do you think?