New report from veteran service organizations calls for VA focus on access, infrastructure and caregivers
Four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations— Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), American Veterans (AMVETS), Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)—released a report calling on renewed focus on access to timely, high quality care, particularly for women veterans; continued commitment to reducing the claims backlog; real investments in infrastructure; and support for all veterans in need of caregiver support. The policy recommendations are included in the 29th edition of The Independent Budget (IB), available online at www.independentbudget.org.
This year’s IB marks a change from past editions. The new IB represents a policy guide to support the two-year term of the 114th Congress. The IB outlines many policy concerns that impact the millions of veterans who comprise the four organizations’ membership. Additionally, the groups have highlighted critical issues that they believe should be at the forefront of any oversight and legislative activity in Congress. The five critical issues include:
- Ensuring Timely Access to High Quality Care
- Expanding Access to Caregiver Support for Veterans of All Eras
- Fixing the VA’s Claims Process, to Include the Appeals Systems
- Maintaining and Rebuilding VA's Critical Infrastructure
- Ensuring Programs and Services Meet the Gender Specific/Unique Needs of Women Veterans
The nationwide crisis in care and confidence that broke across the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system last year demonstrated the serious access problems that exist throughout the VA. The co-authors of the IB were all directly involved in the efforts to address these problems.
“No issue matters more to veterans than timely access to high quality care. This became clearly apparent during the crises in VA last year,” explained Al Kovach, Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “However, simple passage of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act does not absolve the VA or Congress from its responsibility to care for the men and women who have sacrificed for this country.”
Without question, the needs of veterans with catastrophic disabilities are a high priority for the IB coauthors. Unfortunately, thousands of veterans are excluded from the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program.
“No reasonable justification can be provided as to why veterans with a service-connected injury or illness incurred prior to September 11, 2001, should be excluded from the comprehensive caregiver program,” declared Stewart Hickey, Executive Director for AMVETS. “It is time for Congress to correct this inequity.”
Meanwhile, the VA continues to struggle with deciding veterans claims for disability benefits in an accurate manner. And now it faces a rapidly-approaching, self-imposed deadline to end the claims backlog once-and-for-all.
“The Veterans Benefits Administration cannot lose sight of the real goal to establish a credible and efficient claims processing system that delivers accurate benefits decisions for veterans,” stated DAV National Commander Ron Hope. “It has made significant progress, particularly with regards to the Veterans Benefits Management System, but more remains to be done.”
The VA also faces serious challenges with its current physical infrastructure, and with a growing need for more medical care space. Unfortunately, events like those surrounding the development of the Denver facility only serve to undermine confidence in the VA to deliver on the need for more physical space.
“With a rapidly aging system that needs serious investment, it is more important than ever that the administration commit real resources to increase and modernize VA’s infrastructure,” emphasized John W. Stroud, commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
The Independent Budget is an annual comprehensive budget and policy document, written by veterans for veterans, detailing funding requirements for VA. The Independent Budget aims to present a full picture of veterans’ needs—and how government can meet these needs.