Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A National Disgrace!

“We support our troops.”
When it comes to military matters, regardless of one’s political persuasion, the one area that we all seem to agree on is that “we support our troops.” 
You can debate an administration’s policies on foreign affairs.  You can disagree with the rationale for going to war.  You can second guess military tactics.  But no matter what side of the debate you stand you always, always end by saying:  “…but we support our troops.  We support the young men and women who put themselves in harm’s way in defense of our country.”
The problem is we don’t.  In fact we have let them down in extraordinary fashion.
Veterans returning home from combat have to wait up to 600 days to have their applications for benefits reviewed by the Veterans Affairs Administration.  There are cases where Purple Heart recipients have waited over 1,000 days to receive medical benefits.  Over 600,000 new claims for injury or illness received during active duty service have been pending for more than 125 days.     
Many veterans are unable to work due to their disabilities.  So while the VA backlog sucks their application into a deep black hole, bills go unpaid, bankruptcies and foreclosures occur and an already stressful situation becomes exponentially more stressful.
Why is this happening?
The VA is the poster child for big government bureaucracy.  It is a governmental behemoth of 270,000 employees charged with administering benefits to over 4 million veterans.  It suffers from bureaucratic gridlock, poor management and antiquated systems.
97% of all veterans’ claim files are paper files.  Not digital…paper.  You can only imagine the train wreck of lost documents and miss -filed correspondence that is rampant when trying to keep track of over 40 million pieces of paper.   The VA is currently converting these files over to the Veterans Benefits Management System.  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki expects the transfer to digital files to be completed “sometime in 2015.”  Budget cuts mandated by sequestration compound the problem.  Meanwhile over 1 million new claims pour in each year.
This is a travesty that is not going away anytime soon.  As modern science reveals never before known affects of combat, more and more veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam are joining our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in seeking benefits.
The president has been virtually silent on this issue.  He needs to spend some of his political capital to point the glare of the national spotlight this relatively quiet scandal.
“We support our troops!”
No, we do not.
This is a national disgrace!

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