I think most Americans would agree that those who have sacrificed in service to this nation deserve the care and gratitude of their government [and citizens]. Ensuring that veterans receive the care they need, in an efficient and expedient manner, should be the government’s main priority.
Anyone who has ever received VA treatment knows that there are problems. Hospitals currently are for the most part understaffed, underfunded, and over worked. Any veteran needing more than the most basic of care often have to wait months for treatment and receiving that treatment may involve traveling to another VA facility, sometimes out of state.
But the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits Pay Restoration Act, S1982 sponsored by progressive Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is not the answer. Bernie’s bill contains 143 provisions that would expand and overburden the already fledgling VA system while jeopardizing the quality and access of healthcare for our wounded veterans.
The bill, among other things, includes: restoring cost-of-living increases for military retiree pensions; expanding VA services to anyone who has ever served regardless of need, if they get their insurance through an ObamaCare exchange; building or acquiring 27 new medical facilities, which the VA desperately needs; as well as paying for reproductive services for 2,300 troops wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It would expand compensation for family caregivers of disabled veterans, something now provided for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, to families of veterans of all wars. The bill also adds 15 new programs, many of which are duplicates of existing federal, state, local and private sector programs.
The VA currently spends billions on programs to aid veterans in skills training, resume writing, employment databases, etc. Sanders bill does nothing to consolidate programs that work or eliminate programs that don’t. Most of what these new programs offer can be obtained through the GI Bill which already pays for college or technical schools.
Backers claim that some $21 billion of the estimated $30 billion cost would come from federal government funds allowed by law to be spent fighting terrorism over the next 10 years. While it may work on paper, like other government programs, the funds would have to be appropriated from other programs which would include the Department of Defense., as well as the general funds which is already overburdened by our debt. And, like other government programs, cost over-runs and government bureaucracy could expand that estimated $30 billion to a $100 billion at the drop of a hat.
Dumping millions of veterans into an already dysfunctional VA system is not the answer. Wasting taxpayer funds for new programs is not going to solve existing problems. Despite an increased budget from $85 billion to over $138 billion since 2008, the VA remains woefully inadequate to care for existing veterans who need its services.
Instead of exacerbating a failing system, would it not be more responsible and caring to streamline the existing VA bureaucracy, and restructure the system? As it stands now, it is an example of the failures of government run health care and our wounded warriors deserve better.
It seems to me that Sanders bill is more about buying votes for the 2014 election and pushing ObamaCare than it is about our wounded warriors.