This article was posted on the Dark Wraith Message Board earlier this week. It infuriated me so much that I had to hold off posting about it here for a couple of days to cool off. I’m using a link from the National Gulf War Resource Center, but it was originally published in Salon.
Basically the gist of it is that some folks in the Illinois government wanted the Department for Veterans’ Affairs to look into benefits for disabled vets, thinking that they were maybe too low. Cool, right? Well, the VA decided to use it as an opportunity to look at existing 100% benefits that might have been too high. They’re thinking maybe some of the folks getting 100% disability for pesky mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder shouldn't be collecting all those benefits after all.
So now the VA “has decided to go back and review more than 70,000 individual cases of vets who in the past five years have been considered disabled and unemployable because of mental trauma.” Their reasoning is that the percentage of veterans who applied for and received 100% disability for PTSD varies a bit over several states, so maybe the ratings system they use to evaluate PTSD isn’t being implemented consistently. Or maybe vets are lying to get benefits, right? Well, maybe – although the VA denies that their investigation is about fraud, instead saying it’s about making sure the ratings system is working and applied correctly. Well, hey, I can understand needing to cut costs. After all, the VA is about a billion dollars short of their budget.
I could go through a similar recertification process at work, if I cared to take FMLA to cover therapy visits for severe clinical depression, but I’d really rather not go through that crap if I don’t have to. As it stands, I think I’ll work through the scheduling issues in other ways, simply to maintain the illusion of privacy and to avoid the freaking paperwork.
But veterans of the first Gulf War who don’t have a choice, who need the disability to live, are going to have to present their cases all over again. They're going to have to tell their stories again, dig up their evidence, hope their war buddies are still around to corroborate. I wonder how much stress that will add to their lives, given that they are already living with the symptoms of PTSD, like “homicidal rage, suicidal thoughts, nightmares, anxiety, sleeplessness, hallucinations and paranoia.” Just what the doctor ordered, I’m sure.
“Veterans Affairs says it wants to make sure that vets getting payments for mental wounds deserve the money. ‘We have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the rating system and to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going to those who deserve and have earned them,’ Daniel L. Cooper, the V.A.'s undersecretary for benefits, tells Salon in a written statement.”
Hmm. Let’s look at that last sentence again; I think it's worth repeating.
“We have a responsibility … to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going to those who deserve and have earned them.”
As a taxpayer, I’d sure like to have a voice in this discussion. Instead of laying more stress on vets – who have done their time in the military and ought to be left alone to live in as much peace as they can manage – couldn’t we look at the salaries of, oh, I don’t know, Senators and Congressional Representatives? Because I don’t see those folks risking their lives at the request of the government.
And maybe we could think about what happened to the $100 million or so bucks that went missing in Iraq. Not a lot of money when you think about what has already been spent in Iraq (over $187 billion, if you’re curious.) But still, it would help.
Hey, here’s an idea – maybe we could rethink our entire foreign policy so that it’s not based on a global pissing contest, and we could keep our military out of situations like, say, genocide, that cause PTSD in the first place.
Sorry, I know, totally unrealistic. Forgive the idealism. It’s Friday.