Developed by Operation Firing For Effect, The Veterans Advocacy Group
by Gene Simes, Director OFFE
In 1991, Vietnam combat veteran, Mr. Jere Beery submitted an early version of the VETNET concept to then Georgia Congressman, Newt Gingrich, who in turn, forwarded Mr. Beery’s concept paper to Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Edward Derwinski for review. Although the concept was well received, and promises were made to follow up, the VETNET proposal died a quiet death somewhere within the DVA. VETNET has laid dormant for the past 17 years. Now, Operation Firing For Effect has revived and refined the concept for the twenty first century.
The VETNET concept is rooted in providing preventative healthcare, hygiene, and medical information directly to our disabled veterans in the privacy of their own homes via free cable television network broadcast.
The VETNET concept has been developed exclusively by Operation Firing For Effect. You will not learn about this concept from any of our nation’s veteran service organizations, from members of Congress, or the private sector. OFFE has not publicized or released details about this project until now. We are sharing this concept now because we feel ‘now’ is the perfect time for the development of this project.
In these times of continued budget cuts and service reductions within the VA, with very few services taking the place of the programs the government is reducing; VETNET is an appealing and logical concept. One might think if we can produce television programming for home shopping, sports, cartoons, animals, weather, and music videos, a TV channel for the disabled is well within the realm of reality and existing technology.
Our preliminary feasibility study shows startup cost of such a cable channel would be minuscule compared to the medical care cost savings that would result from the distribution of preventative healthcare information to disabled and elderly Americans in their home. Providing medical advisories, nutritional information, and healthcare education directly to the veteran will reduce unnecessary trips to the doctor and help prevent potential illness. In addition, reduced trips equate to reduced travel cost for the veteran by reducing fuel consumption which will result in reduced carbon emissions. These three factors make our VETNET concept an extremely innovative and valuable investment in the future of our country.
To give you a rough idea of how significant the savings could be, I will use the 25+ million veterans currently enrolled in the VA healthcare system to illustrate. If 10% of these veterans (1 out of 10), 2.5 million veterans, avoided 1 doctor’s visit because of information provided by VETNET, and each veteran used 2 gallons of gas per round-trip doctor visit – that equates to 5,000,000 gallons of fuel – using $3 a gallon to calculate the cost, $15,000,000 has been expended before the cost of the doctor, medical services, and prescriptions. Additionally, the 5 million gallons of burnt fuel would produce several tons of harmful carbon emissions. When you factor in retired military families and disabled civilians that could benefit from VETNET, the overall savings would be far greater than this simplified example reflects.
Homelessness, divorce, and suicide have reached an all time high among our former military personnel. Recently released official government studies indicate as many as 18 veterans a day successfully commit suicide. If these reports are accurate that number equates to 6552 veteran suicides in a single year, surpassing the total number of U.S. combat fatalities from all U.S. military operations combined since the end of the Vietnam War in 1974. VETNET can be a proactive tool in approaching this tragic trend. The VETNET concept represents the ultimate in ‘Out Reach Programs’.
VETNET programming could be both informative and inspirational. By broadcasting human interest segments featuring disabled Americans overcoming their disabilities and accomplishing things once thought impossible, VETNET would inspire and motivate other disabled Americans to follow their dreams and to set goals. The story of a paraplegic skiing down a slope or a double amputee kayaking white water rapids would be extremely uplifting to other physically challenged individuals. The message would be simple; just because you are disabled does not mean you are hopelessly incapable of improving your quality of life.
Imagine for a moment that you are a housebound or bedridden disabled veteran (man or woman). Your days of isolation and loneliness go by very slowly. You are depressed by your situation, and you feel like no one even knows you exist. Now, imagine that you could use your television remote control to tune-in to VETNET and see and hear a person addressing your situation and concerns. Showing you exercises you can do from your bed or wheelchair, teaching you ways to make your house handicapped accessible, warning you about the dangers of mixing certain medications. VETNET would be a friend to the housebound elderly and disabled while simultaneously improving their morale and overall physical condition.
Now imagine that you are the widow of a recently deceased veteran. You have lost your mate of many years, and you don’t know what to do or where to turn for assistance. VETNET could provide this widow with information on the benefits they are entitled to and instructions on how to apply. The widow can now learn about burial benefits, how to acquire their spouse’s military records, and much, much more. In this example, VETNET has eased the burden of the surviving spouse’s loss.
Let’s take the VETNET concept one step further. Imagine you are a combat veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Your life is spinning out of control, your family is being torn apart, and you are thinking about ending your life. You tune-in to VETNET and hear someone describing what you are going through and you see a telephone number that you can call to get help. VETNET has now become a lifesaver.
A wide variety of programming could be developed and produced covering everything from stop smoking education, support, and reinforcement, to PTSD education, warning signs, and support, drug and alcohol abuse, to ways to improve your diet, to the proper techniques for taking your own blood pressure, temperature, and blood sugar count, just to name a few.
VETNET is not intended to replace, substitute, or eliminate medical services and/or programs already in place. VETNET should not hamper, discourage, or delay the development of new medical services and physical therapy programs offered by the VA, or any other participating medical provider. VETNET is merely an ‘enhancement tool’ designed to increase the effectiveness of existing healthcare services by providing information that will empower the viewer with knowledge and reinforcement that can improve their quality of life.
All VETNET programming that encourages viewer participation should contain a warning similar to this; ‘Before considering participating in any healthcare maintenance program, or attempting any physical exercises broadcast by VETNET, check with your primary care doctor for approval. Do not participate or consider the use of information contained in VETNET programming without your doctor’s knowledge and advice.’
VETNET Structure & Oversight
VETNET ‘could’ be produced by the Department of Veterans Affairs, in cooperation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control, and the office of the Surgeon General. The Department of Veterans Affairs has had an extensive multi-media department for many years. A great deal of usable programming for VETNET already exists in their archives.
Additionally, Congressionally Chartered veterans’ service organizations would take an active role in developing and monitoring VETNET programming. VETNET will depend heavily on an interactive system for viewer feedback and suggestions. This data will be used to determine what programs are effective and what future programming will be developed, produced, and broadcast over VETNET. This interactive involvement by viewers will help protect VETNET from manipulation by governing agencies who might consider broadcasting ‘showcase’ content that only highlights self-serving public relations. It is extremely important that VETNET remain free of political influence. The responsibility for insuring that this happens will fall squarely on a ‘VETNET Programming Advisory Committee’ (VPAC) comprised of both governmental and non-governmental medical experts and veterans service organizations. VPAC’s primary function will be to determine what programming is effective and appropriate, and what is not.
VETNET could be structured similar to the Public Broadcast Network, allowing for supporter and corporate donations. Although VETNET will be a commercial-free channel, donor/sponsor recognition may be valuable to potential programming funding. Major medical equipment manufactures and pharmaceutical companies may find the tax deductions and public relations associated with being a contributor to VETNET beneficial.
In addition, VETNET viewers would be able to order CDs and video tapes of programs broadcast on VETNET. Both of these ideas could stimulate revenue to help cover VETNET operations cost.
VETNET would not only service the 25+ million veterans enrolled in the VA, but the 8.3 million retired military and active duty personnel and family members eligible for care under the Department of Defense Military Health Services System (TriCare) would benefit from VETNET as well, therefore, creating additional federal savings.
VETNET would not only provide a valuable service to our disabled veterans, but would service ALL Americans. VETNET won’t be for everyone, and individual households will have to make the decision to include VETNET in their cable programming package. But, we believe that a network such as this could reduce healthcare cost by providing essential healthcare tips, physical therapy, nutritional data, and emergency information directly to the elderly, handicapped, and disabled in the privacy of their home. As you can see, the possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination.
Since VETNET would be broadcast via satellite, programming could very possibly influence and improve general healthcare, hygiene practices, and nutritional consumption among viewers worldwide.
Basic startup cost for such a cable channel would be equal to, or less than the cost of one, (1) Cruise Missile. Development time for getting VETNET operational and on the air could be as little as 12 months.
This is merely a thumbnail sketch of our VETNET concept. We are convinced that our VETNET concept could very well be the catalyst needed to implement full mandatory funding of veteran’s healthcare. VETNET would prove that a nationwide healthcare system can be enhanced while simultaneously saving money and decreasing environmental impact. VETNET has the potential of saving our country billions of tax payer dollars while improving the general health, morale, and welfare of all who subscribe to this revolutionary cable network.
Footnote: The term ‘VETNET’ has been used by several organizations and groups over the past few years. However, we have been unable to locate any use of the name which predates Mr. Beery’s use beginning in 1987. If use of the name VETNET becomes difficult because of copyright protection by any one particular group or organization, another name could be easily adapted. Whatever you call this innovative concept is really insignificant compared to the value of the service it will offer all Americans.