Veterans healthcare

It’s time to end the decades-long sabotage of veterans’ health care

In January, I received a frantic call from Crownover, a man I hadn’t seen in ten years since we had served together in the Army’s Third Infantry Division. He was calling to let me know that our fellow fighter, Moore, was in intensive care at a civilian hospital on the West Virginia-Ohio border for kidney failure.

Why was a veteran in a hospital that was not owned by Veterans Affairs?

When Moore’s family contacted Chillicothe VA Medical Center, they were told they had no room on their inpatient ward for him, so he was stuck in a holding pattern.

While those pushing for privatization of VA would quickly blame VA for it, the fact is that this lack of space was the result of a failure over decades for Congressional investment in the VA system to prepare to today’s demands.

Too little of our tax dollars have been allocated to building the physical infrastructure and hiring the workforce that would be able to provide the resources needed to treat today’s veterans.

Some of VA’s needs were obvious, such as the increase in demand caused by my generation coming from Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the needs of Vietnamese-era veterans that increased with age. But add unexpected stresses such as increased drug incidents in rural and disadvantaged areas, this lack of congressional investment has led to doomsday scenarios that keep making headlines.

All of these factors combined, the Chillicothe VA, part of a sabotaged, resource-starved system, simply didn’t have a bed to put it on for a while.

While we were on the phone, Crownover told me that Moore had been delirious, and without sedating him into a coma-like trance, the doctors there were worried about what might happen. Moore may have sacrificed his hand and a few pounds of flesh in Iraq, but civilian doctors still saw this veteran as a “threat to be mitigated” first, and a “patient to be treated” second.

Their threat mitigation and treatment plan? Pump a veteran who was brought to the hospital with kidney failure with a cocktail of drugs – day after day.

I knew right away that we needed to get Moore to the VA ASAP, so I took the next available flight.

It’s experiences like these that make efforts to undermine the VA so deeply infuriating. When we saw the headlines on the propose a bill to sabotage the VA – charging veterans for the care they received and further denying the system designed for veterans the necessary investments – this was not only clearly bad policy, it was personally insulting to veterans’ advocates .

The bill’s author’s staff had apparently not consulted with any Congressional-chartered or membership-based veterans service organizations, and instead chose to take orders on how to send US dollars. veterans health care into a new entity called “The Corporation”. Those black money funded lobbyists are not focused on veterans health care, only on reduced taxes needed to fulfill the VA promise take care of us “who carried the battle”.

I slept on the floor of a civilian hospital next to Moore for a week, and every day was like Groundhog Day.

Moore’s experience was a constant and life-threatening scenario, one that retraumatized not only for him, but for those of us who watched helplessly by his bedside. His severe memory loss and mental instability due to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder made this hospital hell for him. When he was at his worst, these civilian doctors and nurses crowded by the door to stare at him — staring at him like an animal in a cage — further triggering his PTSD and perpetuating his downward spiral.

Once a bed finally opened up, we were able to get Moore to the Chillicothe VA; where through their familiarity with veterans like him, VA doctors quickly stabilized him.

The difference in quality of care could not have been more profound.

Every day at the civilian hospital, I feared that their providers – out of ignorance and fear – would push him closer to death. From the moment we walked into the Chillicothe VA, Randy immediately started to improve in his recovery.

Veterans freely acknowledge that VA has issues, but we overwhelmingly prefer to get our care from VA because it’s a system designed to serve us. Any proposal for veterans health care reform that fails to invest in improving and expanding the capacity of facilities operated by the Veterans Health Administration must be firmly rejected in a bipartisan effort. to ensure that our nation keeps its promise to all veterans.

The VA saved my life years ago and pulled me out of the dark cloud I was stuck in after returning from Iraq.

I have seen the VA save Moore after the private sector has failed him, as it has for countless other veterans. Members of Congress on the fringes of the partisans better not try to take this comprehensive, life-saving system away from us and use clever marketing to try to say you’re giving us a “choice”, when it really is just a choice to see anyone but the VA.

It’s time to end the decades-long sabotage of veterans’ health care, where congressional underinvestment is creating deadly problems to be politically exploited for partisan gain. Keep the crazy ideas on the sidelines and start listening to veteran groups with real members. Invest in the AV we need for veterans today and tomorrow.

Kristofer Goldsmith is an Iraqi veteran, the founder of High Ground Veterans Advocacy and the Deputy Director of Policy and Government Affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America.