The vets who aren’t getting treatment

MARLBORO — Recent comments by veteran Bob Miller of Brattleboro [“The real scandal: Congress refuses to fully fund the VA at a time when the number of veterans needing care has skyrocketed,” Editorial Observer, June 4] and by Deborah Amdur [“A big responsibility: Head of White River Junction VA hospital visits Brattleboro clinic, reassures veterans,” News, July 9], for two years the Medical Center Director in White River Junction, praise the care of VA patients under treatment but do not shed as much light on those who are not.

In a recent issue of the Harvard Gazette, Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School called the resignation of the secretary of veterans affairs, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, inappropriate. When “the fundamental system at the VA is simply broken,” she said, what's needed “is to overhaul the system itself.”

The system currently serves eight million people. Today, nearly half of returning veterans file disability claims, with eight to 10 disabling conditions per claim, as opposed to three from claims filed after World War II. At least 90 percent of the claims are approved, but only after lengthy medical evaluations.

In addition to volume and complexity, a root problem is the gulf between a veteran's service-connected medical history and subsequent treatment at VA medical facilities. There needs to be more cooperation between the Department of Defense and the VA.

In 10 years, the VA budget “has nearly tripled from $60 billion to $150 billion,” but Bilmes actually blames Congress: “Rather than doing the hard work of saying that the structure of the system needs to be seriously reconsidered, it has just said, 'We're going to throw more money at it.'”

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