Ask a veteran about government health insurance: Column

12/21/13
 
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from USA Today,
12/20/13:

The way benefits are handled by the Department of Veterans Affairs can tell us something about government health care.

Charles Skipper is an American hero. A retired member of the United States Army, he served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. A battlefield injury cut short his tour of duty — a tour which earned him two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a lifelong battle with post traumatic stress disorder.

But you wouldn’t know that he’s a hero by the way he’s been treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Six years after filing a disability claim, he’s still waiting for resolution. Those years have been filled with paperwork, unfulfilled promises and a bureaucratic mess that makes Charles fight back tears.

Now he has a warning for America: “If you really want to know what Obamacare is going to be like, just look at the VA system.”

His experience is not unique. Too many of America’s veterans have suffered at the hands of the VA, where the federal government is both the middleman and the manager of their care. Their experiences thus provide a unique window into Obamacare’s future.

That future is bleak. VA’s biggest problem is its inability to process disability claims payments. VA has roughly 700,000 pending claims in the system right now. Of that number, some 400,000 have been backlogged for over 125 days. Some, like Charles, have been backlogged for over two years.

VA’s best attempts to fix this problem have not yet worked. While the backlog of first-time claims has slightly declined since April, the number of appealed claims has shot up. The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs now fears the department is “simply moving some backlogged cases from queue to another” to artificially depress the backlog.

Overall, the agency has processed 100,000 fewer claims than it promised for fiscal year 2013. The similarity to the various broken Obamacare promises is too much to overlook.

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