Solve Veterans’ Complaints
Right now, about 100 healthcare facilities of the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are under criminal or internal investigations for complaints including: deception about excessive wait times for appointments, negligent care, unsanitary conditions or overuse and misuse of opioid medications. The 2017 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Survey found that 82% of the respondents enrolled in VA healthcare, and an astonishing 58% reporting their VA healthcare experience as very poor, poor or fair. Only 16% believe that troops and veterans get needed mental health services.
The health and mental health issues of our post-9/11 veterans cut deeply:
- 20 veterans commit suicide every day
- 65% know a veteran who has attempted suicide and 58% know a post-9/11 veteran who died by suicide
- 38% of our veterans suffer from chronic pain; 41% have service-related hearing loss; 80% were exposed to environmental hazards (burn pits) and 63% report burn-pit related health symptoms
- 19% of our veterans have Traumatic Brain Injury
- 46% experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The 2017 IAVA survey included many questions for and about women veterans. Only 27% believe the general public respects their service. Only 44% agree or strongly agree that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees treat women veterans respectfully. Only 22% rate VA support for women veterans as good or very good.
A 2012 Department of Defense report found 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact in the military. The 2017 IAVA report found most survivors do not report the crime. Of those who did, 74% of the women and 64% of the men experienced retaliation. Further, 68% of women and 42% of male respondents believe the military is not effectively addressing military sexual assault.
Finally, here’s the pain we the American people inflict on our veterans: while 70% of the IAVA respondents believe the American public generally supports veterans; only 16% believe the American public actually understands the sacrifices of our veterans or our men and women in uniform.
I am on the record with published articles (see links below) about veteran suicide, veterans in prison, the failures of the VA and a strategic plan to transform the VA. My strategic plan begins with a new mission statement: “To provide world-class services and benefits to our veterans and their families.” This plan has six goals:
- Goal 1: World-Class Health and Mental Health Care
- Goal 2: World-Class Delivery of Benefits and Supports
- Goal 3: 21st Century Technology and Data Systems
- Goal 4: Organizational Excellence
- Goal 5: Strong Partnerships
- Goal 6: Performance Metrics Focused on Quality of Care
During the 2016 election cycle, as an organizational psychologist, I talked about ways to transform the VA with Steve Sanson, director and founder of Veterans in Politics, International (VIPI) and Chris Keniston, the 2016 Presidential nominee of the Veterans Party of America (VPA). We agreed that the internal culture of most VA facilities was terribly broken. We eventually agreed that culture change means sending 5-person, no-nonsense consulting teams into each of the 100 VA facilities under criminal investigation. The team would lead the transition to world-class standards of care. The five members include two veterans, a healthcare expert, a financial auditor and a tough management consultant. Accountability means the White House tracks and releases monthly progress reports.
I support a fully funded without any restrictions Veterans Choice Program – allowing veterans to get health services from non-VA doctors – and full funding for programs where veterans help veterans.
How will we pay for expanding these services and programs? The Pentagon has some responsibility for the mess at the VA and I propose transferring $17 billion from Defense to the VA to fund the these programs and to hire 100,000 veterans as mentors and coaches. That $17 billion is how much the Pentagon spent buying ammunition that was out of date or banned by international treaty or stored somewhere without access and for which the Pentagon is now spending $1 billion dollars to destroy.
I am on the record declaring that we as a nation cannot fully re-pay our veterans until we recognize that our dysfunctional reasons for going to war inflict post-traumatic stress and moral injury on our men and women in uniform. Transforming the VA into a 21st century world-class service provider is a national priority. Having meaningful discussions about the balance of war and peacebuilding is part of the debt we as a nation owe to our veterans and their families.
Veterans Losing Faith in VA System
Transforming the US Department of Veterans Affairs
Jailed for the Holidays: Vets in Prison
Veterans in Politics, International (VIPI)
Veterans Party of America (VPA)
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)