What Are They Doing to Veteran Benefits?

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What Are They Doing to Veteran Benefits?

We get these e-mails all the time. "They're going to take 'In God We Trust' off the money!" (Actually – they aren't if you bother to look it up http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/dollarcoin.asp ); "Target stores are anti-veteran!" (Also untrue as you can see here http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/target.asp and truth be told Target was a major contributor to this blog's efforts on behalf of the soldiers of COP Keating); and of course various medical claims of a dubious nature. Generally, these are have been forwarded dozens of times already and in all honesty, the sender means well – they just didn't bother to check their facts before they sent it. Unfortunately, it propagates inaccurate information that, far from helping the problem, actually makes the problems more difficult.

It's nothing new of course. "Friend of a Friend" stories go back as far as anyone can recollect. Everyone knows that Mikey from the Life cereal commercials died eating Pop Rocks, because they totally heard it from a friend of their cousin, who was totally there in the Emergency Room when they brought him in. Urban Legends are nothing new, which is why we have a glorious show like Mythbusters to investigate their accuracy – usually with the aid of high explosives. The only problem is now these stories get so mixed in with our sources of information that we have trouble sorting fact from fiction in things that matter, not just in the status of child stars or escaped mental patients with hooks for hands who hang out around Lovers' Lane.

Lately, there's been a rumor floating around that's popped up in a lot of inboxes regarding funding for veterans' health care in budgets. The budgets are on everybody's mind lately, so it's no surprise that a lot of misinformation is floating around. The common refrain is that the budget is going to cut benefits to veterans' health care. Hopefully we can fact check a little of it so people look at the issue honestly and understand what's going on.

April 15th – Tax Day to you and me – the House passed a FY2012 Budget Bill including funding for the medical accounts in VA for FY2013 (Hooray for Advanced Appropriations!) Pretty much everyone calls this the Ryan Budget, because Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, was the leader of the Budget Committee and one of the primary architects of the thing.

The Budget establishes funding amounts for each agency for the upcoming year (as well as the Advanced Appropriations for the following year) and also has a sort of guideline for the next nine or ten years – which is not binding but it like a blueprint for what to look forward to. Even if the Budget passes the Senate and becomes the official Budget, it doesn't have any binding authority on anything past the next year or so. Congress will pass (or not pass) new Budgets that deal with those years. The Budget states amounts that "Shall not Exceed" certain levels and the Appropriations Committees work within those levels to implement the actual spending. At least, that's as much as my little pea brain comprehends.

Concerns came up because conversations took place at some point with a Veterans Service Organization (not the Legion in this case) in which a staffer floated the idea that Category 7 and 8 veterans in the health care system be eliminated from eligibility. This never got into the final budget; it's an idea that was floated out there. The final budget numbers actually dovetail with the numbers in the White House budget proposal, which does not include cutting Category 7 and 8.

So – the Budget as passed doesn't cut Category 7 and 8. That's an important fact for right now.

But the issue did get brought up in conversation apparently, so what does that mean? Well, it could mean a lot of things. A lot of things get brought up in conversations. If you're looking at a problem, you should look at different solutions, even if it's only to rule them out. Does it mean they (the Ryan backers) want to cut those veterans out? Did they just wonder what the impact of that would be? Sometimes, getting asked questions like that can be important to veterans' groups because it gives them a chance to educate on the realities of a situation. Often there are realities of a paradoxical nature. Category 7 and 8 veterans actually bring revenue into a system and planning larger scale operations can actually reduce the individual cost of individual actions in that system because in essence the spending is amortized over a greater area. It's that kind of information people need to have to make informed decisions.

Ultimately, there are concerns about VA funding because the needs are growing. A Congressional Budget Office report last October pointed out that based on current veteran population, patient loads and so forth, long term budget needs are going to go up and are going to have to increase over current levels. Nobody's budget addresses that need beyond 2013. Just like other programs currently in the news such as Social Security and Medicare, the country is going to have to figure out a way to pay for these programs and keep them functioning in a way that doesn't leave the country with debts they cannot pay.

Some people might think that cutting services to some groups such as the 7s and 8s is the way to go. The American Legion and most other VSOs are obviously going to oppose that and make the arguments as to why it's a bad idea. Maybe some people will push to cut funding and maybe they won't. Maybe they're just weighing all sides of an argument to make a decision. What is certain is that guessing what positions people are going to take in budget battles down the road is just that at this point – guessing. Whatever decisions get made, they are going to be hard ones. That's why people need to let their Senators and Representatives know what is important to them and what lines can and can't be drawn.

But those arguments need to come from facts.

People can and should decide whether or not they think the so called Ryan Budget is a good idea or not. There are likely to be many Budget proposals and you have to look at all of them to decide whether you like them or not. I honestly don't care and don't support or oppose this or any of the others one way or another. I just hope we keep finding ways to keep the government running without going bankrupt and I'm smart enough to know I know so little about finance to know the best way to do that – I have enough trouble with my own checkbook.

Just don't hate it because it cuts out veterans, because at this stage it doesn't. And please, for God's sake, stop forwarding me e-mails about how many confirmed kills Mr. Rogers had as a sniper in Vietnam, because I'm quite aware that he wasn't a sniper, you're thinking of Dr. Ruth.



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have been in the va since the late 70's never asked for anything untill i needed it have had to fight every step of the way won some lost most will always owe for er bills that the va will not pay for even though they say call 911 the va was a whole lot better back in the 70s and 80s easer to get care

well the have bout got it done us nam vets are dying off pretty fast now look at the money they will save agent orange must cause copd look how many nam vets have it

My grand-daughter enlisted in the Maries and going to college under their Educational Benefits plan. She is performing her end of the deal but not getting paid regularly. It is causing all kinds of problems in her ability to pay bills, educational and living expenses. - The government is short changeing these recruits by ignoring their right to a paycheck for their service. - When will something be done about that? If Washington can't afford to pay the troops then they should not be getting their generous salaries either. Lets be fair to the military!

My grand-daughter enlisted in the Marines and going to college under their Educational Benefits plan. She is performing her end of the deal but not getting paid regularly. It is causing all kinds of problems in her ability to pay bills, educational and living expenses. - The government is short changing these recruits by ignoring their right to a paycheck for their service. - When will something be done about that? If Washington can't afford to pay the troops then they should not be getting their generous salaries either. Lets be fair to the military!

I cannot help but ask if care is being cut at military hospitals, TRICARE and must either be reduced or have its premiums increased, and the VA health system is overwhelmed - where is all this super-duper care active and veterans are supposed to be getting? I have to go to the VA for physical therapy. Even though the physical therapy service recommended I continue for 4 to 6 weeks, the VA Hospital at Dublin GA canceled my therapy stating they had no funds. What is peculiar is that the VA was billing my other insurance. Similarly, since 2009 I was supposed to get cognitive therapy. Instead I was sent for retests every 3-4 months until finally this year the same VAMC told me they had no money to send me for therapy. These newspaper articles and statements by legislators about how great things are going in our health care system appear to be nothing more than unsubstantiated claims where soldiers pay the ultimate price. I also feel our private service organizations go out of their way to ignore these issues and would rather concentrate on conventions and photo opportunities than address issues like why PTSD soldiers who prevailed in the 9th Circuit Federal Court case were not getting treatment and what is happening to them now?

If I want to continue physical therapy or receive cognitive therapy the system has made it clear I am on my own. I have a feeling that I am not the only one facing this denial of treatment. Yes I have written to reps and orgs. I keep learning the hard lesson that we must take care of ourselves.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.