Well So Much For That Notion

One thing that has, on occasion, cropped up in discussions of health care, is how wonderful the VA system is. Phillip Longman wrote a glowing article about the system at Washington Monthly that extolled the systems state of the art computer system and how efficient the VA was. Well, maybe not.

Ray Oliva went into the spare bedroom in his home in Kelseyville, Calif., to wrestle with his feelings. He didn’t know a single soldier at Walter Reed, but he felt he knew them all. He worried about the wounded who were entering the world of military health care, which he knew all too well. His own VA hospital in Livermore was a mess. The gown he wore was torn. The wheelchairs were old and broken.

[…]

Among the most aggrieved are veterans who have lived with the open secret of substandard, underfunded care in the 154 VA hospitals and hundreds of community health centers around the country. They vented their fury in thousands of e-mails and phone calls and in chat rooms.

“I have been trying to get someone, ANYBODY, to look into my allegations” at the Dayton VA, pleaded Darrell Hampton.

“I’m calling from Summerville, South Carolina, and I have a story to tell,” began Horace Williams, 62. “I’m a Marine from the Vietnam era, and it took me 20 years to get the benefits I was entitled to.”

The VA has a backlog of 400,000 benefit claims, including many concerning mental health. Vietnam vets whose post-traumatic stress has been triggered by images of war in Iraq are flooding the system for help and are being turned away.

[…]

Sgt. William A. Jones had recently written to his Arizona senators complaining about abuse at the VA hospital in Phoenix. He had written to the president before that. “Not one person has taken the time to respond in any manner,” Jones said in an e-mail.

From Ray Oliva, the distraught 70-year-old vet from Kelseyville, Calif., came this: “I wrote a letter to Senators Feinstein and Boxer a few years ago asking why I had to wear Hospital gowns that had holes in them and torn and why some of the Vets had to ask for beds that had good mattress instead of broken and old. Wheel chairs old and tired and the list goes on and on. I never did get a response.”

What the government give, the government can take away. And considering that Medicare is on a totally unsustainable growth path, count of the government taking away quite a bit.

FILED UNDER: Health, US Politics, ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. another matt says:

    Some anecdotal evidence. My boss is a veteran with a service related disability. He visits the local VA hospital here in San Diego, CA and says that he IS amazed at the efficiency of their centralized database (i.e. they can look up his medical history with ease).

    My wife works as an administrator for the same hospital. After hearing the notion of expanding the VA system for all citizens I asked her if she would be willing to submit herself to the level of care that she sees provided. She says that she probably would BUT that there are definitely problems with wait times (e.g. someone not getting an appointment until waiting for 6 months).

    Please keep in mind that I have no idea how this one particular hospital compares to others in the VA system (it is also a research hospital which might have a large impact on the level of service).

  2. Tano says:

    “What the government give, the government can take away.”

    Especially when you elect Republicans, or others who push that self-fulfilling line about government being the problem.

  3. Edgardo says:

    The history of fiscal adjustment is largely a history of de facto reductions in the quality and quantity of government services. You should start reading the history of Argentina’s public sector in the past 100 years. The only serious adjustment plan successfully implemented was by Chile in early 1975; this plan set the foundation for all the other economic reforms.

  4. Hal says:

    What the government give, the government can take away.

    I guess with a half trillion spent on the fiasco in Iraq (and more to come!) we could have built solid gold hospitals with cyborg doctors that served the entire planet for free.

    Priorities, I guess.

  5. Anderson says:

    Over at the Volokh blog’s threads, there’s quite a bit of opinion that Dana Priest can’t always tell the difference b/t an Army hospital and a VA hospital.

    Time will tell, I suppose.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    I guess with a half trillion spent on the fiasco in Iraq (and more to come!) we could have built solid gold hospitals with cyborg doctors that served the entire planet for free.

    Priorities, I guess.

    Chump change Hal…chump change.

    Tano,

    Thankfully, we have the Democrats who enacted Medicare.

    Anderson,

    Over at the Volokh blog’s threads, there’s quite a bit of opinion that Dana Priest can’t always tell the difference b/t an Army hospital and a VA hospital.

    Time will tell, I suppose.

    There is that. I was wondering what connection/overlap if any there is between the two.

    another matt,

    My step-father has been in the VA system for a while now and says it has been pretty damned good, so it might be a regional thing. Still, it isn’t something that will go on forever unless something is done about Medicare and health care spending in general.

    Edgardo,

    I’m aware of government’s tendency to fail at fiscal reform. Just don’t mention it to Tano, his world view can’t handle it.

  7. just me says:

    As I already said, the problems with the VA system are not new.

    My husband is a disabled veteran, and we have used VA hospitals since 1996. I can’t say that I have ever thought his care was excellent.

    He did have a good doctor when he went to the VA in Durham, but wait times were a problem, but when care got really cruddy was when we moved to NH, and there are only one real VA hospital in the area, and a series of very small clinics. When we moved here, it was almost 8 months for him to get an initial appointment with a VA doctor. Also, their well touted drug plan stinks, many of the drugs my husband does best on are unavailable through the VA system.

    Our experience in the military and with the VA system doesn’t at all encourage me that the US government could provide quality medical care to everyone.

    I also wonder if those in favor of universal healthcare will now continue to use the VA as a model of care-I have said multiple times the picture of the VA system they paint isn’t the reality.