DANIEL VAUGHAN: Our failure to care for veterans is an indictment against government care

August 20, 2018

Caring for veterans, especially those who were wounded while serving our country, should be one of the U.S. government’s top priorities. But every time we turn around, another report shows that we are continuing to fall short in caring for those who sacrificed for us.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released a report detailing how over the last year, a program that is supposed to provide family caregivers to veterans is systematically kicking disabled vets off the rolls and removing home care providers from their rosters.

Not only that, but veterans are supposed to have to wait no longer than 45 days to receive this care. In reality, most disabled vets have waited about three months — sometimes far longer.

And after veterans are discharged, the VA is supposed to check in regularly to ensure no further aid is required. But the report found that a whopping 50 percent of cases never received a follow-up.

If that isn’t a mess in itself, the Wall Street Journal recently interviewed a family that sent in their application to receive aid and received contradictory answers. The Journal reported:

Holly Ferrell, of Franklin, Va., takes care of her husband, a veteran who suffers from severe anxiety and a shoulder injury. She said her husband’s case was alternately approved and rejected for the program by multiple caseworkers between 2013 and 2018. The letter dropping him from the program came with no explanation.

“Our letter, it simply says: ‘Veteran does not qualify for the caregiver program.’ One line, that’s all it is.”

Stories like this one are unfortunately becoming more common, but the problems are nothing new. The OIG report only covers one year of scandal, from June 2017 to June 2018. Before this report, NPR ran an exposé on the caretaker program that revealed that the same problems the OIG reported occurring over the last year have been prevalent since the inception of the program in 2012.

NPR even found that VA offices in some sections of the country cut the number of home care providers for veterans down to next to nothing. In Charleston, SC, disabled veterans had the option to receive assistance from 186 different private homecare providers in 2014.

By 2017, that number plummeted 94 percent; only 11 providers remained.

After NPR’s report was published, the VA announced it would pause kicking veterans and providers off the rolls. But when NPR followed up after the new OIG report, they found that the veterans who were interviewed for the original story, who had lost coverage but were encouraged to reapply, were rejected again. NPR reported:

After the pause, veteran families like the Wilmots thought the program would be fixed. Jenn Wilmot says the Charleston VA encouraged her to reapply, and then rejected her.

Current VA statistics suggest the Wilmots aren’t alone — the Charleston, S.C., VA is still down 93 percent from 2014. There are only 13 approved caregivers on the program there.

The South Texas VA had 342 in 2014. Last year it was down to 177. Now there are only 40.

Northern Arizona kept cutting; so did Puget Sound. Fayetteville, N.C., had 570 caregivers in 2014; 350 have been cut…

The reason this matters now is that President Donald Trump recently signed legislation expanding the assistance program to all veterans. (The original system was designed to only assist those in wars after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.) The VA is kicking people out and dropping provider coverage right at a time when the president is trying to expand coverage.

In other words, the president and Congress are trying to expand the program, while the agency charged with helping our veterans is restricting veterans’ access to care.

We have to do better for our wounded warriors.

Still, we can learn from this. The ongoing scandals serve as further evidence that the U.S. government is wholly incapable of running a nationwide health care system.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the new socialist darling of the left, U.S. House candidate from New York’s 14th district Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, talk a big game about how Medicare-for-All (or some other socialist utopian vision of health care) will fix all of our problems. But as I’ve written previously, from a purely mathematical and accounting perspective, their ideas are delusional.

But apart from their problems with math, they are missing the human toll our lousy public governance would take.

The VA system exists because the men and women who need those services answered the highest call of their nation. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their service. We owe them a far better system.

But we’re failing in that very straightforward task, and we’re even failing in providing simple services like home care. The VA is a government-run monstrosity of a program that is rife with negligence, abuse, and wasted resources.

Democrats have tried forcing their health care fixes on Americans multiple times. First, it was Hillary-care, and we ended up with HMOs. Then it was Obamacare, and the entire health insurance industry was upended.

Now, they’ve looked at all the government programs they’ve created and decided those aren’t good enough, so they argue that we have to give them more control over the system they’ve never shown any responsibility for anyway.

It’s time to take a step back. Enough with the grand utopian plans.

We need to fix the problems in front of us first; most importantly, we need to get care to our veterans.

Then we can focus on dismantling the colossal disaster that Democrats and their socialist allies keep trying to build.


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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.