January 29, 2008 – Given the praise President Bush heaped on our troops in his final State of the Union speech Monday night, we were outraged to read two stories Tuesday about how the government continues to let our wounded soldiers down. First, The Associated Press reports that questionable “substandard care” has led to the deaths of 19 veterans over the past two years.
The VA hospital in question, in Marion, Ill., allowed “many surgeries that its staffing or lack of proper surgical expertise made it ill-equipped to handle.” And then there was the issue of hospital administrators being “too slow to respond” once the problems became apparent.
Also, National Public Radio reports that Army officials have asked the VA to cease helping soldiers fill out Defense Department disability forms and crafting the “narrative summaries” necessary to determine their eligibility for health care and disability pay. A Madigan Army Medical Center spokesperson told us that this was not the case there, that there is no army policy against soldiers getting outside help with their narratives and Madigan officials have not asked VA officials to stop doing so. We couldn’t determine if Army officials had told VA officials in other places otherwise. We also can’t figure out what’s worse about what happened in upstate New York — that the Army sent in a “Tiger Team” to make things harder for its own, or that VA officials there agreed to stop helping soldiers fill out forms.
If the reason given to NPR is true, that VA staffers aren’t qualified to help soldiers with the paperwork, then it’s imperative that the DOD makes sure that someone can help them figure out the confusing disability rating system.