As many Americans paused last week to reflect on the events that took place 14 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, when close to 3,000 lives were lost, veterans were once again reminded of the sacrifices many of their brothers and sisters have made — off the battle field — waiting on VA health care benefits.
According to a new Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general report, “more than 300,000 American military veterans likely died while waiting for health care — and nearly twice as many are still waiting.”
The IG report says “serious” problems with enrollment data are making it impossible to determine exactly how many veterans are actively seeking health care from the VA, and how many were. For example, “data limitations” prevent investigators from determining how many now-deceased veterans applied for health care benefits or when.
The report also says VA workers incorrectly marked thousands of unprocessed health-care applications as completed and may have deleted 10,000 or more electronic “transactions” over the past five years.
Undersecretary Allison Hickey of Veterans Benefits Administration and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson, both veterans, recently went on record to highlight the improvements the VA has made over the recent years. Both acknowledged there is still work to be done.
Bottom line: Men and women in this country are willing to fight against evil for this country. A select few raise their right hands, don a uniform, agree to defend the constitution, live by different rules and accept that mission comes above self. Should they also expect to have to fight against the VA for benefits they were promised while VA bureaucrats are awarded bonuses?
— By Michael Schinder
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.