(Washington, D.C.) – The Budget Resolution passed by both
houses of Congress will result in staff reductions in every VA Medical
Center at a most inauspicious time—as veterans return from the war in Iraq
and as increasing numbers of veterans need care from the system, said Thomas
H. Corey, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
The impact will be significant among those returning troops
who suffer from mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD), those who have sustained loss of limbs, and other serious injuries.
In addition to devastating decreases in
the availability of care for veterans that will result from such budget
cuts, the VA seems determined to contest even long-standing disability
compensation for PTSD from veterans currently receiving VA benefits and
health care. A recent VA Inspector General’s (IG) report concluded that
following a brief review of certain grants of service-connected benefits for
PTSD, the “subjectivity” involved in such determinations has resulted in
over-granting of benefits.
As a result, the VA will be reviewing
PTSD grants between 1999 and 2004, with an eye toward revoking benefits if
the claim was adjusted incorrectly. “VVA believes that the “subjectivity”
offered to the IG report is a euphemism for poor training and quality
control of VA adjudication staff.
“We must make it crystal clear to
Congress that the budget appropriation for fiscal year 2006 year is at least
$3.5 billion less than what is needed to fund the VA medical programs
adequately,” Corey said. “This is a critical time. Without these resources,
veterans will have longer waits to see specialists, much-needed maintenance
will be deferred, and medical equipment will not be purchased.
“Together, through the Partnership for Veterans Health
Care Budget Reform veterans service organizations will demonstrate against
these drastic cutbacks. Veterans’ health care is not a welfare program. It
is a benefit earned by rendering honorable service to our country. If we
don’t act forcefully now, we will continue to witness the erosion of what
was one of the finest health care programs in the nation.”