By: G. Duff
President Asks Congress to Fix Years of His Persecution and Neglect of Veterans
Yesterday, President Bush responded to findings by his Commission designated to”fix” problems with the VA. President Bush is now chiding Congress for failure to address these problems quickly enough and to have allowed them to have gone on for some many years.
President Bush, however, is failing to note that the problems he is asking to have “fixed” are, in actuality, the direct result of specific policies for which he is personally responsible.
Former VA Chief Jim Nicholson who recently resigned in disgrace with no adequate replacement named, oversaw the Bush Administration dismantling of an already damaged VA health care and Disability Compensation system. Nicholson, the political hack designated to bleed veterans funding dry to cover war profiteering expenses and subsidize huge tax breaks for the rich, finally left office after a series scandals involving treatment of veterans of the Iraq War.
Back in 2003, Bush cut off VA health care for veterans who make $25,000 per year total family income. THIS ENDED UP PREVENTING 1 MILLION VETERANS FROM RECEIVING HEALTH CARE THEY NORMALLY WOULD HAVE BEEN ENTITLED TO OVER THE NEXT 3 YEARS. Only disabled veterans that have managed to successfully navigate the multi-year award process and veterans with income levels that would generally qualifty them for Medicaid retained access to medical care other veterans have had for generations.
When Democrats asked for 2.7 Billion in the VA budget to treat returning veterans, Bush refused, calling this “irresponsible”. When 77,000 new veterans returned from Iraq looking for health care, the VA had to return to congress looking for special interim cash to meet this “unseen” shortfall. The result, of course, was poor health care, long waits for appointments and a number of recorded suicides.
New “adjustments” in the VA system by Bush and Nicholson raised veteran co-payments by over 2 billion dollars and took 200,000 more veterans out of the system.
Other Bush initiatives significantly increase fees for veteran/retirees using the TRICARE system. Bush claims he can put 11 billion in costs onto military families and out of the Pentagon budget over the next ten years.
Currently, military reservists, who make up a large portion of our fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, lose all medical insurance the second they leave active duty.
With a long history of opposition to even maintaining current inadequate levels of care, much less improving medical care for veterans and the military, the Bush/Cheney administration has no credibility with either Congress or the veterans community when it comes to promises.
Any veteran who expects anything but continual roadblocks and “song and dance” from Bush has simply not been paying attention for 6 years.
After 6 years of “fixing”, the VA has a backlog of 6 months or more on initial claims and 2 years or more in handling appeals generated by the overt denial of even the most qualified initial disability compensation claims.
The Pentagon and VA under Bush underestimated their own PTSD diagnoses by over 80%, thus not only drastically underfunding treatment programs, but also failing to provide ANY training to vast majority of personnel designated to treat returning combat vets with PTSD. Already plagued with scandals regarding attempts to purposefully and systematically diagnose combat vets with PTSD as "unqualifed non-service connected personality disorders", Pentagon and VA credibility with returning vets is at an extremely low level, unlikely to improve based on "sound bites" and empty promises.
Bush didn’t create a broken system, he only made it worse and worked every day to make things more difficult for veterans, soldiers and their families.
That our newspapers cast a blind eye to his 6 year record when reporting his promises to fix a system he has been running all along is an indication that, perhaps we need a Presidential commission to fix our broken news system also.