Veterans life insurance

Iraq War veteran wonders what the future holds with looming VA cut proposal | News

HUNTINGTON — Zoe Morris wanted to see the world when she joined the military before the September 11 attacks in the United States.

In 2003, she was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although she got her wish to see the world, she worries about the implications her deployment – ​​which included working in and near burns – might have on her future health.

After spending the past few years experiencing what she called “excellent services” provided at Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center in Huntington and smaller clinics across the state, the Charleston resident is now one of its greatest defenders.

“It will continue to be valuable as we lose our Vietnam veterans,” she said. “The global war on terror in the number of vets is about half that, but we’re still here and we’re still going to have these issues, and the war isn’t going to end anytime soon. To have this system in place, for me as someone who still has more than half my life, is just beyond words.

The recommendations

The report came following congressional passage of the VA Mission Act in 2018. The act requires the VA Secretary to develop an initial list of recommendations, including acquiring new space, upgrading existing space and elimination of unnecessary space by January 1, 2018. 31.

The report divides West Virginia into four markets: Huntington, Beckley, Clarksburg and the Northern Panhandle.

In 2019, the Huntington market had 31,748 registrants, but is expected to experience a 15.3% drop in listings over the next 10 years.

Demand for inpatient medical and surgical services is expected to decrease by 13.6% and demand for inpatient mental health services is expected to decrease by 22.3% by 2029. However, long-term care demand is expected to increase by 8.5%. Demand for outpatient services – such as primary care, mental health, special medical and surgical care, dental care and rehabilitation therapists – is also expected to increase.

The report recommends on the Huntington market stopping inpatient medical and surgical services at the Huntington VA and instead suggesting the use of existing health care providers, as well as converting the emergency department into an urgent care center. It would also establish a long-term care center to meet the high demand for long-term care and geriatric services.

The VA would also establish a new residential rehabilitation treatment program in Charleston, as well as moving the Charleston Community Outpatient Clinic to a new site near the capital.

The Lenore-Williamson Outpatient Clinic would also be moved to a new, larger site in Chattaroy, West Virginia, which the report said could serve a wider geographic area and offer more patient services.

Finally, he recommended expanding services at the outpatient office in Gallipolis, Ohio, which also serves veterans in Mason County, West Virginia.

While a national average of 32.5% of VA enrollees live in rural areas, the number increases to 49.7% for Huntington Market enrollees. More than 57% of enrollees live within a 30-minute drive of a primary care site and 63% live within a 60-minute drive of a VA secondary care site, according to the report.

People who need more serious hospital services may have to travel as far as Connecticut for treatment.

A veteran’s concerns

Morris joined the US Army in 2000 after graduating from Hurricane High School. She is one of 200,000 veterans who have entered their names on the Burning Hearth Registry, which was established in 2014 to collect data to help researchers understand the potential health effects of exposure to airborne hazards during military service.

She said the burn pits vary in size and can be used to burn anything from trash to feces to larger-scale objects, all of which emit smoke and noxious gases that can contain chemicals. carcinogenic substances.

“We occupied these burning hearths with our uniforms. There were no masks or anything. You just went and took care of the burn pit,” she said. “The hotbeds are huge. (It causes) enormous amounts of cancer, of all kinds. It’s coming back more and more because these fires are huge.

She eventually returned to West Virginia, where she worked for a nonprofit organization that did not provide health insurance. She used Charleston’s West Side Women’s Health Clinic for annual checkups and birth control. Eventually, she decided to look into what the VA could provide for her.

His curiosity changed his view of medical care for years to come.

At 29, she became pregnant. She was not eligible for Medicaid or similar assistance. With no other option, she turned to the VA, which covered all the costs of her pregnancy, even a home birth and a midwife. Years later, she still uses the VA for 100% of her medical care, from eye exams to mental health care to her attending physician, all at little to no cost to her.

She used the Huntington VA emergency room – which the report recommends closing – once for what resulted in emergency eye surgery and another time when she found a tick deeply embedded in her skin. She also received care at the Charleston Outpatient Clinic for a case of strep throat.

Morris said the effects war might have on soldiers may not be fully known even 20 years after his deployment.

She said she could be in the VA system for another 40 or 50 years and that it is important for her to have the comfort of having all of her doctors in the same system who can talk to each other and communicate her issues with them. to each other, all in one Campus. Outsourcing reduces that comfort, she said.

Federal officials react

Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., said he has opposed the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Act for four years. In May 2018, he moved to remove the VA Mission Act, which he said would reduce facilities and services for veterans in West Virginia. The following year, he introduced the elimination of the VA Assets and Infrastructure Review Board Act of 2019, but that failed.

Last month, Manchin expressed concern that those nominated to serve on the AIR Commission come from heavily populated areas and do not represent rural communities such as West Virginia. Manchin held a listening session Monday with West Virginia veterans to discuss the proposed changes and allow them to voice their concerns. Manchin said he would fight “tooth and nail” to prevent the changes.

“Three of our four VAMCs in West Virginia would be reduced, forcing our brave veterans to travel farther for the same care they have been receiving at our VAMCs for years,” he said. “I will report what I heard from our veterans today in Washington to fight against any recommendations that would deprive our veterans of services.”

Earlier this month, Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., led a group of 12 bipartisan senators who sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to consult with Congress and local stakeholders, state by state, on the impact the recommendations would have, particularly on older veterans.

The letter said the report focused on quantitative data and not on the impact it would have on real veterans, especially the elderly.

“Veterans risked their lives to protect this country. They deserve consistent, accessible and quality care upon their return. It is the promise we made to these brave men and women when they were sworn to serve, and it is the promise we intend to keep,” the senators wrote.

And after

To federal leaders, Morris warned of the implications the cuts in West Virginia could have. She said VA health care is not something that recruits young people, but retains adults and the kind of people they should want in the military.

“If they can’t figure out how to pass universal healthcare, they need to make sure to strengthen and support the VA healthcare system and the hospitals as much as they can,” she said. “It will become an increasingly valuable draw as our public health care system becomes less and less accessible to ordinary working people.”

She said VA health care should be expanded, not reduced. She said it should be expanded to cover more people who have served their country and community, not just those who have been on long tours overseas – referring to members of the National Guard who have served in Virginia -Occidentale during the deadly floods of 2016.

She also thinks the VA is not doing enough outreach and marketing to educate those who are not registered but are eligible for services.

The Mission Act required the creation of an AIR Committee, a group of nine members not yet appointed by the President or approved by the Senate, which is tasked with reviewing the recommendations and presenting a final list of recommendations to the President before January 31. 2023.

In turn, the President will notify the Commission and Congress whether he approves or disapproves of the list by February 15, 2023, and Congress will have one month to review the recommendations, if not approved, along with other deadlines to follow.