Veterans health care suffering from shortfalls

Alaska Veterans Report

“I am shocked — shocked— to find that gambling is going on in here!”

This much-paraphrased line of Claude Rains that he said to Humphrey Bogart in the great film Casablanca should be the tagline of this monthly article on Veteran’s healthcare.

I am shocked – shocked – to find the federal government has promised more than they can deliver!

Yes, I hope you were sitting down when you read that line but sadly for all veterans this is true. It was easy to promise to provide Veterans healthcare coverage for life when the money from taxpaying baby boomers was coming into the general fund at a rate that outpaced needs. The Social Security so called “trust fund” has been used to pay for everything not covered by the annual taxes raised by all other sources and now the Social Security “trust fund” is just a few decades from becoming insolvent, according to the SSA Trustees.

Baby boomers are retiring and are in need of healthcare at an increasing rate and soon this source of funding will become a liability budget item. If the “greedy corporations” were doing this sort of off-the-books accounting, the whole Board of Directors would be frog marched into a Congressional hearing and lectured by the very people who have been doing the same thing to the taxpayers for decades with camera rolling. 24/7 coverage won’t be enough but not a single cable news network will give any legs to a report on this coming crisis.

The good news is our federal government is as experienced as any nation on earth to handle insolvent deficit budgeting. Crank up the presses. Pay back all of these promises with cheaper dollars and forget cost of living allowances. Devalue the U.S. dollar and that will get us by another election. Wait – let’s distract the masses with red meat subjects like the names of a pro football team or the agenda of an infinitesimal portion of the population’s fundraising issue. Yes, that should do the job.

However, an independent budget forecast report for 2015 authored by stakeholders such as American Legion, VFW, DAV and other fine service organizations with input from many other sources projected a $5 billion shortfall in direct VA healthcare and construction projects alone. But the $25 million shortfall in VA medical and prosthetics research is very disturbing and shortsighted.

Thirteen years of fighting in the Middle East has put tremendous strain on the VA and must be addressed in the long term and not be held hostage as a political bargaining chip. The VA is now serving veterans from age 18 to WW ll Veterans in their 80s who have served their country and the nation should not turn their backs on them.

A recent report by CNN on the VA found the backlog of simple gastrointestinal procedures, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy, at the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, has resulted in the deaths of at least six and maybe as many as twenty veterans have died due to the backlog. There, veterans waiting months for simple gastrointestinal procedures have been dying because their cancers aren’t caught in time to treat.

Promises made by our elected officials are the responsibility of all of us. Please call Alaska’s Congressional delegation and express your opinion.

More detailed information and the sources for this article:


Until next month, RTB, out.

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

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