Shinseki gone and V.A. forgotten

The Phoenix V.A. hospital that sparked the now forgotten “scandal.”
(YouTube video)

Well, the self righteous in Washington, D.C. got their pound of flesh, it’s what they wanted: General Eric Shinseki (ret.) was forced to resign as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Gosh darn it, those politicians sure know how to get things done.

How does that help veterans? It doesn’t of course. Congress can’t put up any meaningful legislation for anything, let alone veterans and active duty service members.

Eric Shinseki announcing his resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Photo is screen shot of YouTube video)
Eric Shinseki announcing his resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
(Photo is screen shot of YouTube video)

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida put up a bill that gives the cabinet secretary more authority to fire people … but how does that help veterans? It doesn’t. It didn’t help Secretary Shinseki either.

Rubio’s bill does nothing to speed up the process of filing claims, does nothing to add doctors and other medical professionals to an over-burdened system, does nothing to alleviate the wait times veterans encounter when they are trying to get into the system or have their claims resolved in a timely manner. Senator Rubio’s bill does absolutely nothing for veterans.

What would do something would be passage of the funding bill brought to the floor of the Senate by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders that would increase V.A. funding 21 billion over ten years; a bill that would build 26 more medical facilities and hire more medical professionals to ease the wait times for vets to see doctors.

But the GOP is against that. One Republican senator said he is opposed to Senator Sanders’ V.A. funding bill because it would encourage more vets to use the V.A. Apparently veterans using the agency designed for them is a bad thing … really?

What the GOP wants, more than anything else, is to do away with Veterans Affairs and privatize the entire medical system. For the vets that are in the system and getting superb care, that’s a horrible idea. The bureaucratic scandal that took place (and possibly continues now) has become their shining example of the socialized system of health care that is the V.A. is bad and that if the vets were allowed to get their care in the private sector, life would be so much better for everyone. Especially the for profit health care providers who would get trillions of government dollars over the years for covering our nation’s veterans.

Veterans who now get V.A. health care would be getting the same care as other Americans; a system that pushes patients out the door of the hospital earlier than medically recommended to cut costs; a system that requires all care to be cleared by a clerk in an office far, far away who uses pre-determined criteria to see if the patient is eligible for that care. Not based on the patient’s history and situation, but on criteria created by a panel of doctors and accountants to determine the most cost-effective ways to treat patients or more importantly, save money by not treating patients.

When I left the Marine Corps there was no question in my mind my health care would be coming from the Veterans Administration, as it was called back then. It made sense. I had earned that care and with my service-connected injury it was a no-brainer. I went to the V.A. dutifully for 14 years until I was offered health care through an employer that included access to dental insurance, something I didn’t get at the V.A.

For the next 13 years my primary care was through private insurance provided by employers and only once did I use dental care because, even with dental insurance, the cost is prohibitive.

President Obama giving his announcement of Secretary Shinseki’s resignation. (Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)
President Obama giving his announcement of Secretary Shinseki’s resignation.
(Photo is screen shot from YouTube video)

In 2005, after my second heart attack, the for profit insurance company denied care three doctors had ordered for me because according to the health insurance company, I wasn’t eligible for that care according to their calculations — despite the fact that my primary care doctor, my cardiologist and the attending heart surgeon (who was consulted by my cardiologist) said I should have those lines of therapy.

That is the level of care veterans could expect and would receive if they were forced out of the Veterans Affairs health care system and into the private, for profit, health care system.

After that incident, and after my V.A. primary care physician had a surprised reaction to the details of the heart attack and the treatment denied (She was reading my medical records I routinely brought to our yearly appointment) I decided I would never trust my health and well being to a for profit health care system.

Now that General Shinseki has been fired, resigned if you want to be technical about it, the interest in the problems at the V.A. has waned. All the problems still exist; the V.A. health care system is still under-funded and under-staffed and the GOP has famously blocked legislation to increase funding that would add 26 medical facilities to the system and hire more medical professionals … but Shinseki is gone … YAY! WE DID OUR JOB!

The secretary’s detractors got their prize and the news media has decided the story is over so … what are the Kardashians doing in the Hamptons this week?

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