With the New Year, VA Issues Continue to Grow – The Time Is Now to Change, and Improve the Veterans Administration:

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Written by:  Barbie Perkins-Cooper & Jim Davis

2010 is the new decade of the Twenty-first Century, and with that recognition, it is hopeful change will occur for the United States as we fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of troops fighting these wars continues to grow. In February 2009, the new administration of President Barack Obama ordered an additional deployment of 17,000 troops. With each deployment, the demands increase for our Veterans. The question at hand is will the Veterans Administration move forward into the Twenty-first Century and process claims in a more systematic approach, or will the delayed, antiquated system continue?

     

President Barack Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention held in Phoenix, Arizona on August 17, 2009. He stated, “Whether you left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned. That’s why I’ve pledged to build nothing less than a 21st-century VA.” 

Veterans-For-Change is hopeful that with the new year and a new decade the VA will step up to the plate, admit they need to change and find a more expedient operating procedure to benefit veterans, regardless of whether they were affiliated with a combat area, current war, military conflict, or a victim of their training and military service. The issue should not be if the troop stepped in-country. The issue is service, medical and health care, and giving the Veterans what was promised, regardless of the situation. Veterans should not have to wait…and wait…and wait…until —! 

Perhaps you are not aware of the problems affiliated with the VA and Veterans Benefits. Veterans-For-Change, an advocacy group to improve the Veterans Administration would like to address the following problems/issues. 

Physician Credentialing and State Board licensee requirements with malpractice insurance:

According to the website, http://www4.va.gov/about_va/vahistory.asp “the United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans for any nation in the world.” Reportedly, the Continental Congress of 1776 provided pensions for soldiers who were disabled. In 1811, the first medical facility for veterans was established by the Federal Government. During the 19th Century, our Nation provided veterans an assistance program, including benefits and pensions, not just for veterans, but their widows and dependents. The listing of updates, improvements, and benefits continued during World War I, including programs for disability compensation, insurance and vocational rehabilitation. The Veterans Administration was established in 1930 when Congress “authorized the President to consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans…” Over the years, the VA health care system grew from 54 hospitals back in the 1930’s era including 171 medical centers, nursing homes and additional health care centers. For decades the VA Health Care System has relied on medical school interns, residents and college professors and other doctors to staff and provide medical care services to veteran patients. Now that it is the Twenty-First Century, it is time for the VA to improve, upgrade, and demand that board certification and licensing is established and practiced in EVERY medical facility. Our veterans deserve this practice.  

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Most of the medical personnel affiliated with the VA are not licensed in the state in which they practice medicine, and to take this one step further, many of them are college graduates with only a medical degree and no board or licensing certifications. Additionally, many of these individuals are hired by the VA and aren’t even required to take state board exams, required to attend any continuing education in-service programs which in civilian hospitals would be required. And they’re not required to even hold medical malpractice insurance as the VA shields them. Veterans-For-Change believes this practice MUST be stopped. Our Veterans deserve the best medical health care available, not guinea pig status or pin cushion practice! 

Regardless of the cost, professional training, or expertise, the VA and our Government should be providing top notch physicians, fully licensed in the state in which they practice, and they should have valid malpractice insurance. All medical personnel should be required to stay up to date on all of the latest State of the Art, cutting edge medical training, along with the practices, issues and answers available in civilian hospitals. No Difference! If our President, Barack Obama believes his words and practices what he speaks,Whether you left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned. That’s why I’ve pledged to build nothing less than a 21st-century VA…” it is time for the Veterans Administration to get with the program, train the proper and best personnel and care for our veterans identical to how they cared for us during their tours of duty and service to our Country,” perhaps it is time to put these beliefs into practice! 

Additionally, the Government should begin a national database of physicians similar to a national clearing house, so that those doctors and all other licensed medical professionals who have lost their license, regardless of the reason, cannot be permitted to re-gain licensure in another state. 

Feres Doctrine:

Prevents military, vets, and spouses from suing the government for malpractice. Daily Veterans from all walks of life and military experiences, receive minimal, even poor medical care with misdiagnosis, botched surgeries, incorrect surgeries, improperly given medical procedures which place their lives, health, and ability to have a quality of life at risk, or worse actually killing them. The veteran, spouse, or at worst the widow, has no real recourse against this as opposed to civilians due to the Feres Doctrine which prevents a veteran or spouse to file charges in court for medical malpractice. 

Currently, there are two bills submitted, one to the House and the other to the Senate which would “suspend” the bill, but suspension is not the answer! Complete and total revocation is! 

The VA should be held accountable for any and all medical personnel regardless of position, be it a nurse, technician, counselor or physician. 

Veterans-For-Change expects members of Congress to see this for what it is and take the necessary actions to reverse the Feres Doctrine, and to force the VA to be accountable for medical staff, equipment, and care. Why not place yourself in the shoes of a family member, just to see how it feels to be 100% totally and completely helpless to stand up and fight when these doctrines apply. 

PTSD, Agent Orange Korean, Thailand & CONUS Vets:

Every day, thousands of veterans who served in Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and CONUS are denied benefits they are entitled to for exposure to dioxin from Agent Orange and other defoliants.

In both S.E. Asia and CONUS Agent Orange was used as a defoliant. In S.E. Asia the chemicals were used to protect our troops and prevent the enemy from hiding in the foliage to kill many more of our fighting men and women. 

In the CONUS they were used to keep surroundings of various military buildings free from unwanted vegetation growth and keep it clean and neat looking. 

Veterans who served in Korea and on the DMZ are denied benefits due to erroneous reports about where these chemicals were deployed and that there is a “shelf life” of Agent Orange Dioxin which if were true then why are we in Viet Nam helping the Vietnamese government to clean up the land that was contaminated some 40 years ago. According to the reliable website, http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/ “October 13, 2009 Secretary Shinseki decided to establish service-connection for Vietnam Veterans with B cell leukemia, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease. This is based on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine showing an association with exposure to Agent Orange. Vietnam veterans with these diseases may be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits.” Veterans-For-Change believes exposure to Agent Orange is truly exposure to a deadly chemical, regardless of the location where it was exposed. One of the chemicals in the Agent Orange herbicide combination contained minute traces of TCDD (dioxin). Dioxin has been shown to cause a variety of illnesses in laboratory animals. Studies also suggest that the chemical may be related to a number of cancers and other health effects in humans. http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/health_effects.asp The research data speaks for itself – Agent Orange was and is a deadly, toxic chemical, destroying the health and lives of many Veterans, including those who served in Korea and on the DMZ.

Many of these Veterans are continuously denied as the missions they served on were, and still to this day remain, classified by the DoD even though former President Bush signed executive order 13292 on March 28, 2003 directing classified missions beyond 25 years be declassified. Veterans-For-Change, as an advocacy group, has an important mission to broadcast and inform all veterans about their rights concerning Agent Orange, regardless of when and where the military veteran was exposed. You, the legislators of our proud and courageous country owe a debt of gratitude and benefits and care to our veterans. Please take a stand and help us to provide the best care for our veterans. Take action today! 

Veterans-For-Change expects members of Congress to uphold the promises of decades prior to 2010 — to care for those who fought to defend our Country, and to practice what was established by the Continental Congress in 1776 — “the United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans for any nation in the world.” Now, in the Twenty First Century, it is time to draft, sign, and present legislation to correct wrongs from centuries ago. It is time to practice what was created and promised to motivate service and care for our veterans. 

President Obama has said: “We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America, a commitment that begins with enlistment and must never end.” 

If our nation rescinds its promises and ignores its obligation to those who have fought to preserve freedom throughout the world, we compromise the right to ask our men and women to serve and defend our national principals. The choice is yours. Please take action to defend and service our country and the veterans today! 

WORKS CITED: http://www4.va.gov/about_va/vahistory.asp, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, VA History http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Agent Orange http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/health_effects.asp, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Exposures, Agent Orange http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/us/politics/18obama.text.html?pagewanted=all, Obama’s Address to Veterans

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