VA: A Crumbling Institution

By Scott T. Davis / September 1, 2015

On August 10th, 2015 The Huffington Post published a troubling article about 35,000 combat veterans being denied health care coverage because of computer errors. Most of these 35,000 combat veterans are veterans of the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq.  The VA’s computer error essentially denied many combat veterans the health care they are entitled to because of an instance that boils down to randomly generated red tape. These veterans were not awarded healthcare coverage because they did not provide the correct financial information. Some of these veterans who have been waiting for healthcare have subsequently died.
“The VA’s computer error essentially denied many combat veterans the health care they are entitled to because of an instance that boils down to randomly generated red tape..”
The Veterans Affair’s healthcare coverage is atrocious, and it is an issue that should grab the attention of all Americans, and it should become a relevant issue in this upcoming 2016 presidential election.
With the troubles the VA is already experiencing pertaining to adequate healthcare coverage, an individual can’t help but look toward the future and wonder how things are going to change, and how we are going to pay for the medical costs of the longest conflict in U.S. history.  The future logistics of the VA healthcare system is a topic that was tackled by James Geiling, Joseph M. Rosen, and Ryan D. Edwards in their article: “Medical Costs of War in 2035: Long –Term Care Challenges for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan”. The group of doctors took a qualitative look at what the future medical care of these combat veterans is going to look like. The unique thing about these wars is the increasing number of people who survive combat wounds. This is thanks to our advancement in medical knowledge and efficacy. While it is a positive for a combat veteran to live through a battlefield injury, it also has negative aspects, because these injuries require a great deal of lifestyle change. The three most prominent examples of injuries that have to be dealt with after OEF and OIF and require lifestyle changes are posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and amputations.  As you can imagine these ailments place a big burden on the veterans and on the healthcare system immediately as the acute symptoms are treated. However, as illustrated in the figure adapted from Geiling et al.  It is the long-term consequences of these wars that need to be considered for, because it is about to place a huge stress on our healthcare system.
Image Coutsey of:  Geiling et al.  “Medical Costs of War in 2035: Long –Term Care Challenges for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan”
As you can see, the injuries incurred while on the battlefield are really just the tip of the iceberg. The United States is already paying a heavy price to try to provide the healthcare coverage these veterans deserve, and the VA has not responded well to this demand being placed on them already. What’s worse is that as these medical complications start to present themselves, it is going to be at the exact time that the aging population of the baby boomer generation are visiting our hospitals more frequently with their comorbidities becoming more and more advanced. This all ultimately means that the health insurance and health care delivery sectors of the industry will struggle to accommodate the expanding consumer base. The faster we approach the year 2035 we are going to see that the VA is going to be placed under enormous pressure to ensure that our veterans that we sent to war are taken care of the way they deserve.
In order to see through that the VA is covering our veterans the way they need to be, our politicians are going to have to get proactive, introducing policies that will ensure that veterans will receive timely, quality care. A priority should be set in the federal budget to allow for a larger percentage of the defense spending to be allocated to health care costs of the veterans. We need to let our politicians know that it is not fair to keep those veterans looking to their employers for the health care they were promised when so many other military projects are pushed through the pipeline to advance our warfare technology.
This might take a grassroots type movement, as I said earlier this is an issue that should grab the attention of most American’s because it is unethical to send American citizens off to War if you haven’t gone through the appropriate planning to pay for their medical costs once they come back home. Even if you are not a veteran or have had family members serve in the military, the humanitarian crisis should be pretty apparent.  We need to take the right steps as a country to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve.