Rep. Reed Plays Political Games with VA Hospitals

freedom-is-not-freeLast May’s problems at the Nation’s Veteran Hospitals shocked the nation. The news of covered up delay of services and falsified records troubled Americans, especially when we learned that deaths could have been attributed to those delays.

Although the President and Congress are seriously looking into the ways to fix the Veteran Hospital Problems, this is an election year. Candidates are political creatures and some are trying to benefit from the scandal.

In February, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sponsored “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014” (S. 1982). The bill “Amends federal veterans provisions to revise or add provisions concerning medical services and other benefits provided to veterans and/or their dependents through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).” (Thomas, Library of Congress). It would add $20 billion to the Department of Veteran Affairs in the areas of health care, Veteran Employment Trainings and Career Transition Services. It also would repeal a portion of a bill that Rep. Reed supported that cut Veteran’s retirement benefits.

The Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative research think-tank, opposed Sander’s bill, mainly because of cost and the increased services for Veterans. They made it known that the Senators’ votes will be counted in the Foundation’s rating system.  A group of republican senators “filibustered” this bill, which in the U.S. Senate means a final vote can only be taken if 60 Senators agree.  “This bill proposes to spend more than we agreed to spend,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). The vote on the bill was 56-41; it failed to reach the 60 vote standard.

On Sunday, June 1, Martha Robertson was in Seneca Falls at the “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” event. Martha commented on the VA Hospital problems, “We see that it’s not a matter of the care that they get once they get access to the care. There’s no question that they are getting quality care and responsive care once they’re in the system. This is a problem of decades of underfunding the system altogether.”

Right-wing bloggers  have been attacking Martha ever since about that statement. The bloggers claim that there has been ample funding for the VA Hospitals. Rep. Reed agreed with the bloggers when he said,“The VA is fully funded. They’re actually up 256% in their funding levels. Their staffing levels are up 52%. Last year they ended the year with $450 million left in the bank at the end of the year,” WETM-TV reported on June 4. The same article added the Reed blames the VA problems stems on the Single-Payer health care system the VA uses.

The USA Today  pointed out the VA “is grossly overloaded with veterans under treatment and seeking to get through the door.” There are 400 openings for doctors, the top pay for VAS doctors is less than half the median for doctors in the private sector.”

After the news about the Veteran Hospitals’ delays swept the nation in May, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. John McCain introduced bipartisan legislation, S.2450, “The Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014″. The following is a partial list of what is included in the new bill. :

  • Authorize leases for 26 new medical facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico.
  • Designate funds for hiring more VA doctors and nurses to provide quality care in a timely manner.
  • Expand existing VA authority to refer veterans for private care. The two-year program also would offer  veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic could seek help at private health care facilities.

This bill was approved in the Senate, 93-3.

Our Congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, in his June 13 emailed “Update”, reported that “I cosponsored this week’s Veterans Access to Care Act, a bill requiring the VA to offer non-VA care to enrolled veterans who experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. Regardless of where veterans live, it’s only fair they receive timely care close to home. If the VA can’t provide care, veterans need the flexibility to seek care elsewhere.”

Rep. Reed did not take a bold step by co-sponsoring this bill. He joined 157 other House members who co-sponsored it. The Veterans Access to Care Act (VACA) was approved in the House, 426-0!

The Senate and the House are organizing a conference to compromise on the differences in their bills. The Senate has set their committee members, the House has not yet.

Rep. Reed has yet to explained why he c0-sponsored a bill to provide needed funds to the Veteran Administration for health care when he recently stated that the VA was already fully funded. The facts didn’t change from June 4 to June 9, but his actions did.  I have to believe that word got from the Republican leaders to the rank and file that not funding the Veterans’ needs is a losing issue. A congressman should have  figure that out by himself.

Using our veterans as a political wedge shows how desperate some candidates, including Tom Reed,  are.  The Veterans deserve better. We deserve better.

 

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About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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7 Responses to Rep. Reed Plays Political Games with VA Hospitals

  1. josephurban says:

    All part of the non-planning for the Iraq invasion and the Afghan war. In past wars many soldiers died on the battlefield or soon after. Those same soldiers are now surviving. Newer medical techniques, quicker access, better facilities, etc. have meant the highest survival rate ever for war casualties. And, we now recognize and treat PTSD as never before. Of course, that means that these veterans will need years and years of medical services, rehab, etc. For some, the rest of their lives. Very expensive. One of the ongoing costs of sending soldiers into war. Not anticipated by the Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz crowd. Remember…this was going to be a two week war and the US troops were going to greeted as liberators.

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  2. whungerford says:

    Reed’s claim that because funding is up it must be adequate is patently false–funding should match the need. Allowing vets to seek care in private hospitals probably isn’t a solution–hospitals are already crowded and many may not be equipped for an influx of vets with special needs. The bill to allow vets to seek private care seems like opportunism–using vets needs to boost profits.

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  3. Henry Kramer says:

    Pystew leaves out a few material facts and makes a contradictory statement. According to Congress.gov Tom Reed was one of the “original co-sponsors” of this bill, there were 126 Republican co-sponsors but only 32 Democrat sponsors. Pystew wrote “Rep. Reed did not take a bold step by co-sponsoring this bill. He joined 157 other House members who co-sponsored it.” That does not make sense. According to Pystew Reed did not take a “bold step by co-sponsoring,” but then in the next sentence he admits Reed did co-sponsor the bill, probably just “bold enough” for Pystew. Meanwhile Robertson keeps insisting the VA has been underfunded. The problem at the VA, which gives bonuses to its managers while the VA system fails, isn’t funding, it is just a typical inefficient government bureaucracy. The VA should be a warning to us about how a government run health care system cannot work. Robertson advocates a single payer health care system. Government just can’t run these things right. The British national health service still has many of the problems the VA has, slowness in addressing patient needs is just one of them. Robertson, once again out of touch with the real world while Reed explores practical solutions.

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  4. josephurban says:

    How has the VA system “failed” ? We have more veterans than ever, thanks to the “send them to war” mentality of one particular political party. We have about 22,000,000 veterans…from the multitude of wars , including WW2. We give them more services than ever…including psychological counseling, PTSD services, Agent Orange treatment (leftover form Vietnam), rehabilitation services, etc. This costs MONEY !
    In fact, while some say the VA is “failing” , actual surveys show that those who use the VA consistently score it HIGHER than those who use the private health care industry. The lesson: While the private health care system has failed to provide care for millions, the VA is doing better than ever.Not perfect, but certainly better than the private sector. The idea that privatization is the answer just doesn’t hold up to the facts.

    “…The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which conducts surveys for government and private sector services, rated the VA 84 for inpatient care and 82 for outpatient care on a 100 point scale. Those numbers compare favorably with the private sector hospitals for inpatient and outpatient care, which place 80 and 83, respectively, on the index….”
    (from Military.com News, April 14, 2014)

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  5. whungerford says:

    Attacks on the VA are crass opportunism–underfunding the VA then attacking it as a failure is another attempt to undermine public institutions for private profit..

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  6. whungerford says:

    No one claimed that Tom Reed wasn’t a cosponsor; the claim was that it wasn’t a bold step to cosponsor a bill the passed the House unanimously.

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  7. pystew says:

    Thanks for your critique. Maybe my statement should have read, “Rep. Reed did not take a bold step when he co-sponsored this bill. He joined 157 House members who also co-sponsored it.”

    The common thoughts on the reason for the delay was that there was not enough medical personnel nor space to to serve the Veterans who needed service–not that it is a ‘single-payer’ system. That is why the Senate bill includes funding for 26 new or expanded medical facilities.

    There were half-dozen or so demonstrators at the Seneca Falls event, and one had a sign blaming the VA Hospital problem on Single Payer, and then a few days later Rep. Reed is mouthing the same talking points. Word gets around quickly.

    I have heard local republicans complain about Obamacare, then say that “it should be ran like Medicare.” –Meaning a single payer system.

    As I said in the article Rep. Reed felt that the VA was fully funded, then he co-sponsored the bill to greatly increase the funding. As a leader of the local republican party, could you explain that koine of think to us?

    We all should see the Elephant in the room—the Republicans didn’t want to upset the radical right to adequately fund the VA. The Heritage Foundation added their two cents, and the Senate filibustered. Rep. Reed followed along with the Single Payer talking point memo until it became apparent that the public at large, including the GOP’s base, became vehemently upset with the unpatriotic results of underfunding the VA.

    Yes, I realize that fewer democrats co-sponsored the house bill. I also realize that the three senators who voted against their bill were all Republicans. Those three got their brownie points from the Heritage Foundation, and the Veterans got what they needed–and deserve.

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