The LSJ’s recent front-page reporting that our returning service personnel were receiving excellent care at our Veterans Administration facilities in Michigan is accurate that care and treatment in our larger metropolitan Veterans facilities, while a problem in the past, is not a problem at this time.
The article however failed to report that one of the reasons for this improvement is the watchdog approach of our nation’s veterans organizations. Suffice it to say, there is not a major problem in care and treatment at our newer, upgraded VA hospitals around the country.
We must remember, however, that not all returning wounded have access to these larger facilities and some must seek service at our Veterans Administration clinics located around the country. Many of these clinics have been reported to be inadequate in structural facilities, medical staff and care-givers.
The other and most important point left out of this article is that while the returning service member is still on the active roles of the Department of Defense, he/she will not encounter any problem in service or treatment at a Veterans Administration facility – because the Department of Defense will pay the bill.
After discharge is when the problems will begin. This is further supported by the backlog of 400,000 cases nationwide, currently awaiting action in the Veterans Administration, from Korea and Vietnam.
Daniel Cooper, an undersecretary of veterans affairs for benefits, confirmed this figure and it was reported in Newsweek magazine in an article, “Failing our wounded.”
A little known fact of this War on Terror is that for every member of our armed forces killed in action, there are 16 wounded who return to their homes in need of continuing treatment. Our ability to provide quick and immediate response and care on the battlefield, has produced a huge need for continuing care here at home.
Therefore, the question must be asked: Are we ready to provide for the lifelong needs these men and women will have? A review of our Veterans Administration clinics will show that we are not.
Out of 631,000 returning service members from both theaters of operation, 73,000 of them have been determined to have some symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that will require psychological treatment. Those same clinics mentioned earlier, which would be required to treat them, do not have that ability or medical staff on board.
A large number of our volunteer military members come from small-town America and must travel great distances to seek help for those medical problems encountered during their service. We are concerned they will become a victim of failed services. We must remember this is a quality of life issue they will face.
What is the answer to this ever-growing problem? It can be summed up in one word: money.
Where will it come from can be answered in two words: America’s citizens.
It is the cost we must pay for our policies right or wrong regardless of party affiliations.
Douglas Williams is legislative director for the Marine Corps League’s Department of Michigan.