Originally published February 5 2009
VA Strains to Meet the Needs of our Veterans
by Jo Hartley
(NaturalNews) The number of veterans needing health care is rising, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is having difficulty meeting the needs of our veterans.
New statistics released from the Department of Defense and the VA reveal that US casualties are rising. Injuries and deaths connected to Iraq and Afghanistan assignments are at 81,361 now. This is an increase from 72,043 from one year ago. Veteran patients increased from 263,909 in December 2007 to 400,304 currently.
Mental illness is the number one ailment for the soldiers inundating the VA. Forty-five percent of the current VA patients have mental health diagnoses. This includes 105,000 diagnoses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These numbers do not include the unknown number of veterans who are mentally ill but have not sought treatment through the VA.
Thanks to legislative changes and funding increases, health care for our veterans has improved over the last year. Recently, the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act was passed. This act entitles veterans to up to five years of free health care for all military-related health conditions. Additionally, there have also been significant improvements to VA facilities, increased health care research, and improvements to the existing claims processing system.
Despite these improvements, however, there remain problems that prevent adequate care and compensation for veterans. This is particularly true for veterans who need disability benefits. It is commonplace for these benefits to be either delayed or denied. For veterans diagnosed with PTSD, 59 percent are awaiting approval for benefits. This means that they are still waiting for their claims to be processed or they have not filed a claim because of the many deterrents that exist within the system.
Over 809,000 veterans are awaiting claim decisions at this time. The average processing time for veteran claims is over six months. PTSD patients typically have longer delays. Current economic woes are making this waiting period even more difficult for veterans. Often veterans are not able to work due to their disabilities and for this reason, their financial circumstances become crises.
The VA states that some claims are processed quicker than others. Recently discharged veterans with concise medical records have had their claims processed faster. Unfortunately, if a veteran does not seek out the VA for assistance quickly after returning home or cannot supply clear documentation, claims can take years to process.
Furthermore, the VA requires overwhelming paperwork necessary for filing claims. The claim process is difficult and hard to understand and often veterans become discouraged and do not even attempt to file claims. For example, the claim form required to initiate the process is 23 pages long. This creates a high error-rate for veterans filling out their claims and this increases the probability of denial.
Under the new administration, veterans are optimistic that changes will be implemented. Top priorities will be providing the VA with increased funding, expanding health care access for veterans who live in rural areas, and reconstructing the benefits system.
Creating a stabilized funding system for the VA is also a priority. Currently, the VA budget is determined year to year after annual appropriations bills are passed. This system makes long-term planning impossible.
Another measure that is desired and would be designed to improve efficiency is an automatic approval of disability claims for all veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gulf War who have PTSD diagnoses.
About the authorJo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
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