Letter to the Editor: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Most Americans actually know very little about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA), only what they read in the media and maybe some personal experience. Here is some information you may not know, along with a recommendation I personally feel would move the USDVA towards a more efficient government agency.
By the way, the following is not something I copied from Facebook but something I know from years of experience as a N.C. Veterans Service Officer.
The USDVA is actually comprised of three administrative units. There is the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). These are three separate units and, based upon my experience, they do not talk with each other. That situation can be a totally separate dissertation; however, let’s focus on the Veterans Administration (V.A.) everyone knows about from what they have read in the media: the VHA.
There are approximately 1,715 V.A. hospitals, community-based clinics, specialty clinics and healthcare centers in the U.S. and its territories. Not even the V.A. can give an exact number of employees that work in those clinics mainly because the turnover rate among doctors and nurses, not to mention security, administrative, specialty workers, ad infimum in astronomical; estimated to be approaching 40 percent annually. In the V.A. Healthcare system, the doctor you saw last month will probably not be there when you have your follow-up appointment.
The bureaucracy within these facilities is beyond comprehension. Waste, corruption and abuse are just a few terms that have been used by the media over the past few years. I will admit if you poll veterans that use these facilities, those who have non-serious, non-life-threatening conditions, the majority will tell you the care they receive is outstanding -- me included.
However, that changes when the need for a higher level of care increases. I could go on for thousands of words to describe the good and bad that has happened just in the 37 V.A. Medical facilities in N.C. As a matter of record; the V.A. Hospital in Fayetteville is rated as one of the worse in the nation.
However, consider this: As a military retiree, I am covered by a program called TRICARE, formerly known as Civilian Health and Medical Programs for Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS). As a TRICARE recipient, I am eligible to go to the doctor of my choice, as long as that doctor accepts payment from the TRICARE program, which is government-controlled and managed. The difference is TRICARE is under the Department of Defense, not the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The bottom line is TRICARE is more efficient, easier to operate, and allows individuals to use their own doctors. The VHA is cumbersome, over-bloated, poorly-managed and a bureaucracy nightmare.
The goal of the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs should be, at a minimum, to begin the elimination of the VHA and convert all veterans to an appropriate level of TRICARE coverage. It will save our country billions of dollars each year once the conversion is complete, not to mention the lives of our veterans.