New column will focus on health care for veterans

Beginning with the next issue of Senior Voice, I will contribute a monthly article on veteran health care in Alaska. As a current consumer of VA, Medicare and Tricare, I am in a unique position to report from the ground on the quality of care afforded our senior veterans. Over the course of this year, I will highlight new services, funding (or the lack of) and the delivery of long-earned veteran health care benefits in the hopes of empowering this large and deserving segment of our Alaskan senior family so they may enjoy the health care they deserve for keeping our nation free.

Budgets are always under pressure from user groups who use taglines designed to spin their cause as in more need and more deserving than any other group. Senior veteran’s groups can’t afford to sit back and assume our elected officials will have our best interest when the budget knife falls. The Affordable Care Act has already stolen Medicare money, which every working person has contributed to every time they cashed a payroll check for promised health insurance (Medicare), and diverted it to pay for young, healthy adults in the prime of their earning careers so they too can live the American Dream on OPM (other people’s money), which works great until it runs out.

Rumors of Tricare funding cuts, extended wait time for VA services and the beginning of a slow erosion of all veterans’ benefits have had a chilling effect on our active duty military personnel’s morale, as well it should. Death panels may be a bit over the top but anyone who thinks that health care will not be rationed by some budget -driven matrix hasn’t been a consumer of VA, Tricare or Medicare/Medicaid prior to the passage of ACA.

Since my “Greeting from Uncle Sam” letter in 1969 to my retirement in 1998, I can tell the benefits I now receive are much less than was promised many decades ago. I and other veterans have soldiered on and took the benefit erosion for the greater good, but that vassal of good will is gone. It is time for the senior veterans in Alaska to receive the respect we have earned. You can keep your Fourth of July Park Strip Parade photo opportunities as long as something tangible is being done to halt and reverse this untenable trend.

This is a shot across the bow for those in a position to effect change for this unforgivable situation and a promise to all our senior veterans and their extended families, Senior Voice will make a difference, with your readership and support.

Until next issue, keep up the spirit, for we have just begun to fight – again. Let’s face the facts, we are the segment of society that actually knows how to identify, evaluate, engage a threat and work as a team. God help those who are in our way.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and board member of Older Persons Action Group.

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