Politics 101 – VA and VA Healthcare – 2018 My Latest Update on VA HEALTHCARE

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By: Thomas (Tom) Waters, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Ret), Ed.D. / twaters2015@gmail.com

Before I begin this article, I’d like to apologize for my absence to the Veterans Reporter Newspaper and to the readers. My “excuse” is that my computer ‘died” and took all of my notes, articles, reports, etc., (for the past 15 years) with it. So, I’m starting over from scratch and I hope that NEVER happens again. It’s almost as devastating as losing a family member.

Okay, now let’s talk about the possible changes (good and bad) in the Veterans Healthcare System. In this, or a future article, I may even touch on healthcare for Military Retirees and those members still on Active Duty because, in the end, we all end up as VETERANS who are concerned about our Healthcare.

There are many things happening and changes occur every day. In case you didn’t know, on January 9, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order at the White House to improve support for military veterans. The order directs Homeland Security, Defense Veterans Affairs Departments to create a Joint Action Plan within 60 days that will improve mental health and suicide prevention support for veterans. Let’s hope that this plan will reduce or eliminate the loss of our brothers and sisters while providing HOPE for all veterans.

Regardless of where you look or what you read, it “appears” that 2018 will bring changes for the VA and we hope that will turn into positive gains for veterans.

While attempting to remain non-political, we know that this is one of the partisan separations between the political parties in my corporate memory … and possible yours too. However, it might be to our advantage that support for veteran issues remain bi-partisan because the focus on veterans appear to be the only place our Congressional Members find Common Ground. For that reason, we can expect to see more legislation in 2018 and beyond that could change the Veterans Administration (VA) in a positive way and provide other benefits that our veterans have earned and truly deserve.

First let me state that we NEED a limited VETERANS CHOICE Program but NOT at the expense of other VA programs. So, while I have already voiced my opposition to the expansion of the CHOICE Program, I want it clearly understood that my opposition is only where it takes funding and other assets away from the VA’s ability to provide decent veteran Healthcare.

There are several Congressional proposals for legislative changes to either expand or end the Veterans Choice Program. However, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin argued that a proposed plan for Veterans Healthcare was too restrictive and would not offer enough Veterans the choices needed for private sector care.

Critics of those same proposals included most veteran organizations and Dr. Shulkin because it would not allow enough veterans to go to private sector doctors. In most cases, the proposals would require veterans to stay in the VA Healthcare System unless the VA determined that it couldn’t provide them with adequate healthcare. According to Dr. Shulkin, “We are concerned that this approach is narrow and relies on administrative, rather than clinical, criteria.”

Surely, we can’t discuss legislative changes without discussing Congressional discussions about the Veterans Choice Program. Congress (mostly Non-Veterans) continues to discuss it without accepting the input from the Veteran organizations. I try to stay current whenever Secretary Shulkin voices his opinion about any changes to the VA and especially the Veterans Choice Program. I expect many more discussion in 2018. Let’s HOPE that Privatizing the VA is NOT a serious part of those discussions.

While we can rest assured that not all of the legislation discussed will be introduced on the floor of the US House of Representatives or the US Senate and certainly NOT passed into law, I remain confident that there will still be significant changes to Veteran Healthcare Programs and to the VA. So, whether those changes impact us in an attempt to expand private healthcare by merging the Choice Program with TRICARE’s private healthcare programs or implementation of the Veterans Empowerment Act that was proposed as H.R 4451 in the 115th Congress, we just don’t know. That’s the reason we need to remain vigilant and remind our Congressional Delegations, through our various Veteran Organizations, that we are serious about them keeping their promises made to us when we wore the uniforms for our nation.

In my last article, I discussed that the government might use the VA Healthcare System funding to pay for deficits caused by the new Tax Bill. A friend (who was a fighter pilot in Vietnam) stated, “I believe that there are hundreds of government programs that can be trimmed or abandoned in order to reduce expenses. But privatizing VA healthcare should not be one of them. By definition, training for or fighting a war is hazardous. Thousands of those in the military were not there because of their own choosing. They were drafted. Military activity gives unique medical situations caused by radiation, Agent Orange, enemy prisons, explosives, airplane ejections, naval ship hazards, etc. Would a privatized health provider recognize or care about these types of situations? I think not.”

Let’s hope the VA Secretary, the President, and the Congress will keep their promise and find a way to provide the premiere Veteran Healthcare System we have earned.

I will continue to follow what they say and what they do. And, all along this road to success or failure, I will keep you informed.

If you missed any of my earlier articles you can go to the Veterans Reporter News webpage at <https://www.veteransreporternews.com/> to review any Back Issues.

I hear from MANY readers about my articles (most are positive) and I thank you for your positive or challenging “constructive” comments. Feel free to contact me if you believe any of the information provided is inaccurate or if you have additional information that I can share with our readers.