Today is World AIDS Day. Globally, more than 33 million people have HIV, and this day serves as an opportunity for people worldwide to unit in the fight against HIV. In doing so, VA medical centers across the country offer Veterans free confidential HIV tests. The Department of Veterans Affairs leads the country in HIV/AIDS screening, testing, treatment, research and prevention. An extensive list of documents can be found on this site intended for patient and provider alike.
The VA healthcare system is something that all Americans can be proud of. A government agency that consistently performs its mission on or under budget, that mission being to provide quality health care to a huge patient population in a geographical area that covers all fifty states and various possessions. The VA not only provides health care to our nation’s Veterans, but also serves as one of, if not the largest repository of medical research databanks in the world. The VA has partnered with medical schools across the country since the mid-1940s to provide research support and training to medical and nursing students all over the United States. If you’ve ever seen a doctor, that doctor probably got some of his or her training in a VA hospital. Some of the best care around is available, and nobody is turned away because they can’t pay for it. If a Veteran can pay something, he or she will. Our patient base is approximately 25 million strong, and we add ten thousand new beneficiaries a month. We are the ultimate expression of socialized medicine. The government provides healthcare to American citizens who have performed a public service.
We keep costs down by negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, something Medicare was unable to do under the part E prescription drug benefit package created by the republicans a few years back, and also by being the most advanced healthcare system in the world. A Veteran who has gotten his care at the VA medical center in Falls Church, VA can go to the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Ada, OK and the doctor there will have access to all of that Veteran’s medical records, transmitted over a secure network, and available right there in the treatment room to include current medications and dosage rates. We will soon be able to do that with the medical records of military Service members who have departed their services and entered the VA system.
Part of the reason that I’m telling you all this is to toot our horn. I openly admit it. I work here, and I love working here, and I don’t want to see my job liquidated because the republicans want to keep tax cuts for the richest Americans more than they want to care for Veterans. But I’m also telling you this because I am a beneficiary of the Veterans Health Administration. I don’t want my benefits, especially the high quality healthcare I get from you, the American taxpayer, cut. I pay for part of my care because I can afford to, but every day I see patients in our Alzheimer’s clinic, our methadone program, our physical therapy center, the art therapy program, the counseling and readjustment program, the CICU, SICU, and MICU, outpatient psych, inpatient psych, and all over this facility who are a hell of a lot sicker and a hell of a lot poorer than I am and would be lost without the VA.
Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Paul Ryan, and other prominent republicans have called for replacing the Veterans Health Administration with vouchers:
Republicans have made it their goal to eliminate all government programs and replace them with privately owned and operated corporate entities. The V.H.A. is an integrated health care system that, as Krugman points out, “is the most efficient health care system” followed by single-payer systems like Medicare, and both outperform any private system in controlling costs while providing high-quality health care. Social Security, Medicare, and the V.H.A. belie Republican claims that private sector systems are superior to any government programs and instead of strengthening those systems, they intend on destroying them like a criminal destroys incriminating evidence showing their guilt. However, there are millions of Americans who know Social Security, Medicare, and the V.H.A. perform well or else there would not be opposition to privatizing those government programs.
The fact of the matter is that the civilian healthcare system can handle some of the case types that VA has, but cannot, as Paul Krugman notes, do that anywhere near as efficiently as the VA currently does. There’s also a lot of things that we handle that nobody else has any real experience with. Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, multiple limb traumatic amputation, and a host of other conditions, including ongoing programs dealing with Agent Orange, asbestos, and other environmental toxins have patient populations that are either unique to or concentrated in the Veteran community.
The VHA is but one facet of the Federal Government that needs your support. If you get a chance, I hope that you’ll ask political candidates their positions on the VHA, the National Parks Service, and other programs of the government, and get a straight answer out of them. People should be dogging Mitt Romney at every stop, and asking him why he wants to destroy the VHA, and would he feel differently about it if he or any of his sons had ever served. We should be asking Newt Gingrich if the patriotic fervor that led him to fuck a lobbyist on his desk while married to someone else and managing the Clinton impeachment would impel him to protect the VHA and other critical government operations.
The VHA is just one government agency that has a positive impact far outsized to it’s size and budget and that performs its mission very efficiently. I know that the Postal Service is as well, and I have a very soft spot in my heart for the National Parks Service. What federal agency has had a positive impact on your life, and how is it threatened by the current crop of robber-baron-messenger-wannabes?