Friday, April 20, 2007

Testimony: Rural veterans lack VA care

37 years ago Life magazine's cover was dedicated to the debate on exiting Vietnam and the care of the wounded in the VA system. The caption reads: "U.S. troops in the Cambodian forest (top) and in a stateside VA hospital (below)".

Privatized medicine, by law, may replace Department of Veterans Affairs care only if the VA is not physically available for former service members who live in rural areas.

But if veterans are waiting in line for months for initial exams, are the VA facilities “physically available”?

“I think we’ve established that there is a hardship already,” Andy Behrman, chairman of the Rural Health Policy Board of the National Rural Health Association, told the House Veterans’ Affairs health subcommittee at a hearing Wednesday. “That’s why we’re here.”

With 44 percent of service members today coming from rural towns, the committee hoped to come up with some solutions for the thousands of veterans not getting the care they need. Many veterans struggle because there are no VA facilities in their areas, because they can’t afford the travel expenses to VA facilities, because there is a national crisis in getting mental and specialized health care professionals to work in rural areas, and because the VA system is so backed up that veterans can’t get the care they need when they need it.

Read the rest at Navy Times