Transform the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Some VA medical facilities and healthcare professional are excellent. Overall, the VA system is an abysmal failure. About 100 VA facilities are now under investigation for:
- unlicensed physicians
- unsanitary conditions
- overuse and misuse of opioid medications
- lies about excessive wait times for appointments
The health and mental health costs of post-9/11 veterans cut deeply:
- 20 veterans commit suicide every day
- 38% of our veterans suffer from chronic pain
- 41% have service-related hearing loss
- 80% were exposed to environmental hazards (such as burn pits)
- 19% have Traumatic Brain Injury
- 46% experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Recent research shows much Post Traumatic Stress may be undiagnosed brain injury from Improvised Explosive Devices
The 2017 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) survey of post-9/11 veterans found:
- 58% of veterans enrolled in VA healthcare ranked it very poor, poor or fair
- Only 16% believe that soldiers and veterans get needed mental health services
About 345,000 women soldiers have been deployed since 9/11. IAVA found:
- Only 27% of women veterans believe the general public respects their service
- Only 44% believe VA employees treat women veterans respectfully
- In 2013, 1 in 4 women using VA facilities showed symptoms of Military Sexual Trauma
And the Pentagon still forces women soldiers to wear male combat boots despite risk of foot and ankle fractures
Sadly, only 16% of veterans believe the American public understand the sacrifices of our veterans or the men and women in uniform.
On July 1, 2018, I release this Strategic Plan to Transform the VA
1) Start with a new mission:
Veterans’ healthcare began in 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln created a facility: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”
In the 21st century, a new mission is required: “To provide world-class services and benefits to our veterans and their families.”
2) Add new strategic goals:
Goal 1: World-Class Health Care
Goal 2: Effective Delivery of Expanded Services and Benefits
Goal 3: 21st Century Technology
Goal 4: Organizational Excellence
Goal 5: Partnerships
Goal 6: Performance Measure Focused on Healthcare Outcomes
3) Add some details:
Goal 1 sets a new standard of world-class health care across all services.
Goal 2 includes “Fully fund Veterans Choice Program – allowing veterans to get health services from non-VA doctors – without any restrictions.”
Goal 3 includes Congressional hearings to determine why the VA and DoD have wasted billions of dollars failing to build an inter-connected health records system.
Goal 4 recognizes that the generally broken VA culture needs re-setting to emphasize customer service to our veterans. Goal 4 “sends 100 hard-nosed consulting teams that include veterans into the 100 facilities now under criminal or internal investigation to manage the transition of that facility to world-class standards of care.’
Goal 5 includes funding for programs where veterans-help-veterans similar to peer coaching models of Wounded Warrior Project and Veterans Treatment Courts.
Goal 6 demands a shift from measuring paperwork to measuring health outcomes.
4) Follow the Money:
How will we pay for expanding these services and programs? The Pentagon has some responsibility for the mess at the VA. I call for the Pentagon to transfer $17 billion from Defense to the VA to fund the these programs. A few years back, the Pentagon spent $16 billion buying ammunition that was out of date or banned by international treaty. And then the Pentagon spent $1 billion dollars to destroy that ammunition. I propose we move that $17 billion from DoD to the VA.
5) Ask the Big Questions: Why do we go to war?
Dr. Jonathan Shay coined the term Moral Injury: the ethical damage done when we train our sons and daughters to kill others then deploy them to ambiguous combat situations. Shay describes the stress and psychological damage when battleground actions conflict with a soldier’s internal moral code.
Shay’s solutions include more community and national listening to true stories of battle when our soldiers return home. He calls for events that welcome our soldiers home and through conversations and deep listening share the burdens of warfare.
I believe we use the .01% of Americans who serve in the military to bear the entire burden of why we go to war. America cannot fully re-pay our veterans until we recognize our recent history of bad reasons for going to war. Nationally and locally, we must begin honest conversations about the balance of war and peacebuilding.
Articles by Lynn S Kahn, Ph.D. on veterans issues and solution sets
Veterans Losing Faith in VA System
Transforming the US Department of Veterans Affairs
Jailed for the Holidays: Vets in Prison0
Veterans in Politics, International (VIPI)
Veterans Party of America (VPA)
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
Veteran Suicide Hotline