Veterans Affairs: Falling Short

Sunday was an interesting day for Montana Veterans. One of the state’s major newspapers, the Missoulian, published an editorial about the Veterans Administration (VA) in Montana. Plus, U.S. Senator Jon Tester penned an opinion piece with his thoughts about the VA.

You can read Tester’s opinion piece HERE and the Missoulian Editorial HERE.

If you are thinking that things must really be screwed up if the VA is getting this much attention, then you are correct.

Tester writes, “But unfortunately, the VA has been falling short.” That is very true. Tester should be feeling some of the heat from the recent failures in the VA. He has been a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee since 2007. He is also a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. In other words, Tester holds a unique position in that he can impact policy and funding for Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, the VA has probably never been as screwed up as it has been in the past two years.

Tester touts the new “Choice Cards” in his opinion piece saying:

The recent VA reform bill created choice cards for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or need immediate care and can’t wait for an appointment. These folks can use their choice card to receive care from a local provider.
One-in-three Montana veterans are eligible to use choice cards. And I’ll be making sure that local providers and the VA are communicating so there aren’t any issues when a veteran shows up at the doctor’s office.

The VA must dramatically change the way they provide healthcare for veterans. I like the idea of “Choice Cards” but after the kinks are worked out, it should be expanded for all veterans.

The Federal government can’t put a VA clinic with doctors and nurses in every town, although it looks as though they are trying. The Feds can’t continue to spend millions on bricks and mortar, which is money that could better be used for veterans’ healthcare.

Veterans need stability in their healthcare. They need stability in their mental healthcare. The Montana VA is not providing it.

The Missoulian editorial board opened their editorial with this cold hard fact:

Montana veterans continue to face unacceptable obstacles to health care services. It is a national disgrace that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency responsible for ensuring our veterans receive the care they so undeniably deserve, is oftentimes to blame.

Tester has asked VA Secretary Robert McDonald to visit Montana this spring to “meet with veterans and VA employees so he can go back to Washington better informed about the challenges facing Montana veterans.”

Almost every Secretary of the VA has visited Montana at the request of one of Montana’s Senators or Representative in the past. We can expect a veterans meeting where the Secretary will make some announcements, veterans will get to ask the Secretary some questions, Tester will ask some tough questions, and then the Secretary will hop on a plane and leave. Tester will get some applause and media attention for the work he did to bring the Secretary to Montana.

I’d like to see the Secretary travel via van across Montana for 200-300 miles so he can personally see what many veterans face in getting VA healthcare. Then when he arrives, he can be informed that due to a shortage of doctors, his appointment has been changed…


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