Veteran's IssuesWith this being such a broad issue, and as a veteran myself, I haven't got down to the nitty gritty on each issue!
My biggest thing for veterans is to get legislation passed that will allow veterans, once established with the VA, an opportunity to see a doctor in no more than 21 days! This would apply mainly to specialty clinics, like psychology, the pain clinic, dermatology, and the various other specialty clinics within our healthcare!
So many veterans get a referral to a specialty clinic and then are halted by the long waiting times in between, from the clinic accepting the referrals to the availability, which is usually at least 30 days or more away, and we'll the veteran waits, the issues they are having are still not being attended to! This is a major issue within the VA, and I believe, as a veteran myself, that if we passed Legislation, forcing the VA to make sure the Veteran's referral and first appointment are handled within 21 days, no longer, we could help tackle veteran suicide and veterans waiting a long time for their healthcare!
I have psoriasis. My referral for dermatology was put in around August of last year (2019). My first appointment wasn't until January of this year! Unfortunately, I was unable to make the appointment, so I rescheduled, and the first available appointment isn't until April of this year (2020). And here I am, waiting to see a doctor, while my psoriasis is still causing me problems! If we designed the VA to at least get veterans into their first appointment, no more than 21 days after the referral is put into place, it would be extremely beneficial! The VA does not lack the resources in order to make this happen!
When it comes to our homeless veterans, I believe there has to be much more effort on the part of the Federal, State, and Local governments to get our Veteran's off the streets, find them employment, and make them contributing members of society again. We must explore options that will be effective, not very costly, and will benefit the homeless veterans. A good way to start, would be to pass legislation, that puts homeless veterans a bigger priority, then allowing in refugees or those seeking political asylum. There are possiblities out there, and I plan to explore such options with a couple Economy Professors, at Austin Peay State University, in Clarksville, on possible options that may be available, to which it would also be economically valuable.
I believe we must expand more options for veterans with psychological problems, which lead to addiction. The resources available for veterans, who have PTSD and become addicted to substances, is very limited in the VA and the services are practically non-existent at the current time. Some VA Hospitals do have the resources and programs to provide, but not all of them do. I think we need to explore more options for Veterans, that will allow them to undergo 90-120 programs, that help them deal with PTSD and addiction issues. Although there was a huge controversy about it, The Mental Health Rehabilitation and Recovery Treatment Program at the Alvin C. York VA Hospital in Murfreesboro, TN is an excellent program, as it personally helped me, and the VA should implement this same program, to VA's nationwide, but instead of making them a 45-90 day program, expand it to a 45-120 day program, based on the individual needs of the veteran, while also, disallowing the program to kick veterans out, unless under extreme circumstances. If a veteran relapses or misses medication while in this program, they put themselves at risk to be kicked out of the program, and as well all know, this lead to the suicide of a veteran. The program was designed to make sure the Veteran's take responsibility for themselves, but the simple missing of medication, shouldn't of got him kicked from the program. So, the rules and regulations of the program need to be explored, but the program should be implemented at every VA in the nation, with the acceptance into the program, not as demanding as it currently is, since veterans tend to lie, in order to avoid either discussing or dealing with certain issues.
When it comes to our VA, the rate to which they process claims for compensation, are horrible and more options need to be explored as to cut down the time frame. With 180 days, to YEARS, before veterans could see their monthly payments, something must be done, in order to make sure our veterans, are not put at a disadvantage and unable to have an income, while they wait for their claims to be decided, which could lead them to become homeless. It is a vicious cycle with the VA, in regards to claims. Some claims, that are appealed, take almost 2-10 years to be decided upon. Myself, I have an open appeal from 2016. The appeal still hasn't been decided or left the current status to which it was 4 years ago. This needs to change and options need to be explored, that cuts down the time for the veterans. Also, in regards to claims, as a veteran with chronic testicular pain, the VA rates me at a 0%, even though the chronic pain, started while I was deployed to Iraq, 2 days after a firefight. Because there currently is no known reason for the pain (although the VA has given me a 0% rating for "Tuberculosis (TB) of the testicles" (yes you read that correctly), even though it causes me serious pain, to the point it feels like a donkey is kicking me in my testicles, and then they further decide not to treat the pain. I have gone from 2008 until now, and only once have been provided with pain medication, for a few months, in order to manage it. Since then, they have chose to ignore my pain, which affects my life, to the point, that sometimes, I cannot stand in the shower without assistance, cannot urinate without assistance, need help in putting on my underwear or pants/shorts, have trouble walking long distances, it's hard to lay down and be comfortable. It affects my life on a daily basis, there is documentation that this injury happened while in Iraq, and they refuse to give me a rating for it, simply because my testicle isn't abnormal or a few other things (I forget what they are, but they were explained in the paperwork I got, about the ruling of my claim). This is wrong. The pain affects my life, just as much as anything else. While I am not advocating or asking for opiate pain medication, it is wrong, that I waited almost 10 years from the date of my injury, to receive any form of pain management, that was actually effective. Since then, I have found out about other options and am exploring those options currently. Why the VA didn't tell me about these options from the get go, and they allowed me to be in pain for so long, and still to this day, and still to this day, I have to deal with this pain constantly is wrong. No veteran should have to go through this, and the VA should continuously provide and help veterans explore options, and if an injury occurred in a war zone, a 0% rating, simply because there is no visual abnormalities, is wrong. The rating system, and the VA does their ratings, needs to be changed, as a lot of veterans are struggling and constantly fighting against, the VA not rating their injuries, to include the ones that were sustained while at war. I'm sure we could find options and create a new rating system, so it would be more beneficial to myself and other veterans.
While I don't believe our veterans should be paid an extreme amount of money, on a monthly basis, the current base pay, depending upon your rating, isn't as glorious as most people believe. A rating of 100%, with a spouse and kid, is roughly $3,600.00.....this may seem like a lot. When you factor in where a veteran lives, the rate of rent, the cost of goods, and everything else, most veterans barely get by. Plus, it is only once a month, so veterans must budget accordingly or they could go without. For 100% rating, most veterans are not allowed to be gainfully employed at this rating, so it's not like the veteran can supplement their income, by getting a job. It is in very rare occasions, that the VA will allow a veteran to work, with a 100% rating. Now, they do allow you to supplement that income, with going on Social Security Disability, but most veterans struggle getting onto SSDI, due to the fact, that it has different rules then the VA does, when assessing someone's disability. I know, I am a veteran on SSDI and get VA Compensation as well. I struggle to get by every month, with having to pay all my bills, and take care of myself and my 5 dependents.
Also, the VA's dependency status is a joke. This has to change. Since the VA is a federal entity, and the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Federal Government must recognize all marriages, the VA should have to recognize all marriages as well, instead of going by state laws and their rules of marriage. Currently, my wife (actually a fiance, but we consider each other husband and wife), and my two stepsons, are not listed as dependents, because the VA said that TN does not recognize "Common Law Marriages." Yet, the Federal Government does recognize it, and the VA is a federal entity. So, I believe we need to rework the VA's laws on dependency.
There are a lot more veteran's issues that need to be explored. The more I explore veterans issues, the more I will update this post on the issue. So, please come back at a later time and see if there have been updates. Updates will be annotated with "UPDATED*" and the date the update happened, until I believe every issue dealing with our veterans have been explored, then I will annotate with "ALL ISSUES DISCUSSED", so this way you know that all issues have been discussed, and there is no reason to check back for updates