Change brings its own challenges. Not an easy time for vets, though many have a lot of practice: waiting for appointments, for treatment, a human voice at the end of a recorded voicemail menu. Before the election the new administration posted a 10-point program to improve veterans’ medical care and services. Veterans are now waiting to hear what the new administration will do.
New Leadership at the VA
Will new President’s nominee for VA Secretary, David Shulkin, be confirmed? Shulkin is currently the undersecretary of health at the VA. While there has been talk of increased privatization, Shulkin said in his confirmation hearing, that “The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.”
The VA already extends private care options, especially in rural areas where treatment at a VA hospital requires long travel times. Will the balance between private care and VA facilities shift? Shulkin acknowledged the need for change. Given the size and complexity of the VA, how quickly can that happen?
All good questions. But our concern here at the National Veterans Foundation is for the veterans themselves. Calls to our Lifeline for Vets crisis and information line increased by over 2,000 to 12,000 last year. That’s telling in itself, don’t you think?
Need for Collaboration and Focus
Over the last three years we’ve seen the issue of veterans’ care raised over and over. Progress is slow. It’s painful, the waiting for positive change. Funding is not the issue; the level of care and the speed of delivery remain the critical issues. Since 2012, this blog has repeatedly brought up some of the most pressing problems in the VA:
- the backlog of claims to be processed
- long waits to receive care
- the need for mental health care
- the over-use of drugs to treat PTSD
- the denial or reduction of benefits
- suicide prevention
Sometimes I wonder if the country is really listening to our veterans express their needs and frustrations. I know nobody relishes hearing bad news or disturbing stories that show us in a bad light. But I hope citizens and their elected officials on both sides of the aisle come together to meet our commitment to care for our veterans. And soon.
If you know a male or female vet in trouble, here’s our hotline: 888.777.4443.