Op-Ed: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs fixing

bluewater logoReports of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) having doctored medical appointments, having patient priority lists, and covering up botched medical procedures does not surprise those that know the inner workings of the DVA.

By Congressional mandate the DVA is the prosecutor, judge and now executioner in it’s own empire. The DVA has it’s own lawyers, it writes it’s own policy, has it’s own appeals courts and interprets U.S. law for it’s own benefit.

Op-ed submit bugPublic Law 102-4 [also known as the Agent Orange Act] was passed and signed into law in 1991. It gave the servicemen and women who served in the Vietnam theater of combat “presumption of exposure” to illnesses brought on by herbicides used to defoliate the Vietnamese jungles, and to deprive the enemy of food crops. The law also provided for the DVA to monitor the effects of these herbicides in future years. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was contracted to do a study and report every four years.

Based on the DVA’s interpretation of the IOM report, in 2002 the DVA disenfranchised the Blue Water Navy, Fleet Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel who did not have “boots on the ground.” This was in direct opposition to what the IOM had stated in it’s report. The DVA wrote its own interpretation of the IOM report. Years later, in 2013 the DVA also rewrote the medical definition of exposure by tying it to a term “bioavailabilty.” The DVA was now writing medical history.

The history of the DVA making it’s own rules can be seen again in the claims backlog that is finally being addressed due to Congressional pressure. But as can be seen by it’s own reporting of the backlog reductions, the number off denied claims grew higher and unreported.

So “cooking the books” in one way or another is not unknown in the DVA. To further the problem, the DVA can simply refuse to give information by just not answering the requester. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has a long list of reports that were asked of the DVA, promised and never answered.

The DVA needs an attitude adjustment and it must start at the top. It cannot wait any longer, it must be now. There are no “good old boys” when it comes to the lives of our Veterans.

Raymond Melninkaitis is the director of corporate resources for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association in Beacon Falls.

 

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