What VA Delays Can Mean for Service Members
Those who serve in the military are very brave. Regardless of how each American feels about war and their political leanings, you would hope that each citizen cares about the armed forces and respects those who sacrifice for this country. You’d expect that the military would care for its veterans as well.
The VA, or Veteran Affairs, is an organization that exists for the reason of caring for service members who are no longer in the active-duty portion of their lives. Some of these individuals injured themselves while serving their country. Others are not physically harmed, but their mental state is not the best.
Whether former soldiers sustain physical or mental harm, or both, the VA should care for them. However, there are some instances where it doesn’t do as great of a job as it should.
Let’s talk about VA delays and what they can mean for service members who are trying to move forward with their lives after years spent in the armed forces.
Why Do Delays for Medical Care Happen for Former Soldiers?
Delaying medical care for veterans is something no one wants to hear about, even if you don’t support the military-industrial complex overall. The unfortunate reality is that these delays seem to happen a lot more than you would expect.
The VA’s Office of Inspector General conducted a probe into how often delays for veteran medical care were taking place. What they found was a systemic problem. Not only were delays happening, but the VA was systematically covering them up.
That’s tragic since these brave veterans are having to wait for medical care and dealing with their mental and physical wounds. But why are these delays happening so often?
The probe talks about “inappropriate scheduling practices” and compromised patient care. A top VA official testified before Congress and essentially said that over the years, the VA had lost its way. It started focusing more on meeting performance standards versus actually treating patients.
How Does This Happen?
Dr. Lynch, an Assistant Deputy Undersecretary, stated there was a 14-day treatment goal concerning veterans. When a veteran reports a physical or mental condition, the hope is that the VA can get them to see a doctor and address their issue within 14 days. More times than not, though, that timetable has not worked in recent years.
Lynch cited a specific treatment center in Phoenix as an example of these systemic problems. There, schedulers “game” medical appointments to hide the widespread delays that are taking place. In other words, some individuals are purposefully fudging the numbers so that it appears the VA is not letting anyone fall through the cracks.
In reality, the average veteran assigned to this Phoenix facility might have to wait a lot longer than 14 days to see a doctor. The inspector general probe concluded that there were about 1,700 vets who weren’t on any official waiting list, even though they all urgently needed to see doctors.
This situation is apparently not unusual, though. The Phoenix facility is far from the only one that has a huge backlog of vets who are waiting on the care they need, and they might not get it anytime soon.
What Happens When Veterans Can’t Get the Care They Need?
If this issue is as systemic as the probe seems to reveal, that’s bad news for vets. Obviously, as a soldier, if you come home from active duty and you’ve injured yourself, you need to get help. You need medication if you have chronic pain, and you might require a wheelchair to get around, physical therapy to help you deal with your condition, and so forth.
Also, there are the mental issues that are every bit as difficult to contend with as the physical ones. A veteran might look okay to their family and friends, but they may have PTSD. Many vets who have seen combat come back with anxiety, depression, and an overall sense of malaise that’s difficult for them to get past.
When vets can’t get the help they need quickly, they might resort to drug addiction. You hear stories sometimes of vets getting hooked on Oxycontin and other painkillers if they have nagging injuries they can’t shake. The suicide rate with vets is also very high.
What’s the Solution?
Simply put, the VA needs to do a better job of caring for the vets that rely on this institution so much for help. Society doesn’t always treat veterans very well. Some individuals might not agree with their decision to enlist, and they’re not going to go out of their way to help these soldiers once they’re back on American soil and trying to resume their previous lives.
That’s why the VA is like a lifeline for these soldiers. If the higher-ups continue to mismanage it, the vets who come back and need help with their mental and physical conditions will continue suffering needlessly.
It seems as though better fund allocation would go a long way toward solving this issue. With the amount of money that the US dedicates to the military, some of the billions of dollars that America spends on weapons could easily go to improving and expanding veteran resources.
The VA chief claimed to have no knowledge of what the study found, but many lawmakers called for him to stand down. The National Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars called for mass firings of every individual who knew about the mismanagement and allowed it to go on.
Investigators continue looking into an additional 42 medical facilities, as there seem to be delays occurring at each one of them. There appears to be abundant proof that the mismanagement is every bit as bad as the probe seems to indicate.
Veterans will only be able to get the care they need if lawmakers push to address this issue. If mass firings are what it takes to get the VA back on track, then it’s hard to argue against them.