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The budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs is officially late. Instead of working to get it passed, Congress is caught up in a furor over Rush Limbaugh’s latest comments and MoveOn.org’s most recent ad.
With the help of grassroots supporters, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America Action fund is running this ad to break through the clutter. If you’re interested in getting involved, whether you’re a veteran or a concerned civilian visit their web site.
As a recent report from the Government Accountability Office reveals, seven months have passed since the Walter Reed crisis and serious problems in veterans’ care remain.
As of October 1, the veterans’ budget is late. Until it is approved, the VA will be forced to ration care.
Now, it’s up to the President and Congress to approve the budget. Add your name to the statement, and demand they take action.
The VA Budget
Last year, the VA provided benefits to 3.5 million veterans and their families and health care for 5.5 million patients.
Unlike programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, which require mandatory funding, allocations for the VA are discretionary. Only once in the past 13 years has the veterans’ budget been passed on time.
As a result of the stalled VA budget, the VA is forced to operate at last year’s funding levels. Hospitals must ration care and postpone new programs and construction and repair projects.
This year, Congress authorized the highest increase in the veterans’ budget in over 77 years, for a total of approximately $88 billion. This is significant progress, but unfortunately, while the funding waits in conference, wounded veterans are again kept in waiting.
Care and Benefits for Wounded Veterans
Since 2001, more than 26,000 troops have been wounded in action, and almost 45,000 veterans have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Many of these servicemembers face delays when they seek treatment from the VA.
A significant cause of the delays is the maze of paperwork troops and veterans must navigate to get care or benefits. The VA disability benefits system is so severely backlogged that there are over 378,000 pending disability claims, including 83,000 that have been waiting an average of 177 days or more, according to a recent GAO report.
Some veterans with serious mental health problems have committed suicide while waiting for emergency counseling, and others have fallen into debt awaiting government compensation for their injuries.
Also according to the GAO report, there are plans to train case managers and psychiatric nurses about PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) but only 6 of the 32 Warrior Transition Units have completed training for all staff.
About Annette L. McLeod
Annette L. McLeod is the wife of Army Specialist Wendell W. McLeod, Jr. On July 6, 2005, at the end of a ten-month deployment, Spc. McLeod sustained multiple injuries while serving near the Iraqi border in Kuwait.
On August 8, 2005, Wendell arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During his stay, Spc. McLeod experienced sporadic appointments, was often denied the necessary tests and treatment, and had his identity stolen. Furthermore, though Wendell suffered from traumatic brain injury, the doctors concluded that his cognitive impairments were the result of a pre-existing learning disability.
In hopes of sparing other military families from having to go through a similar ordeal, Mrs. McLeod testified before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on March 5, 2007. In her testimony, Mrs. McLeod called attention to the bureaucratic hurdles and poor care that her husband and other soldiers faced at Walter Reed. Her full testimony can be found here.
Today, Wendell continues to suffer from migraines, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain. He also has behavioral and short-term memory problems. As a result, Annette has assumed the role of almost full-time caretaker for her husband.
About Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon
Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon was wounded in Iraq on Nov. 13, 2004, during a gunfight in the town of Habaniya. He suffered a gunshot wound to the head that resulted in the loss of his left eye and a traumatic brain injury.
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, SSG Shannon endured bureaucratic neglect and was continually denied proper benefits. Largely as a result of lost paperwork and delayed treatment, it took Shannon over two years to secure medical retirement through the Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board.
On March 5, 2007, SSG Shannon spoke out about the problems at Walter Reed during his testimony before the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. His testimony revealed that injured troops encountering obstacles to receiving their proper treatment often give up their benefits in order to move on with their lives. His full testimony can be found here.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the nation’s first and largest group for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A non-profit and nonpartisan organization, IAVA represents more than 60,000 veteran members and civilian supporters in all 50 states.
TopicsAfghanistan, Bush, Congress, GAO, Iraq, PTSD, VA, Veterans
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