News & Politics

The VA, Healthcare, And Single Payer

Image Via Barbara Kalbfleisch and Shutterstock

The Veterans Administration is a nightmare. While there are some things it doesn’t make a complete bollocks out of, things such as education and home loans, its healthcare system is a total mess.

During the healthcare debate under President Obama, liberals suggested that the VA was an example of how efficient and well-run single payer healthcare could be. Veterans laughed. Loudly.

Over at The Federalist, my good friend Jonathan LaForce wrote out his own experiences with this supposed bastion of compassion and efficiency.

When I came home from Afghanistan, I noticed my hearing was problematic, to the point that unless someone was speaking with sufficient volume, I could not make sense of what he said. But every ear exam came back as “You’re good, LaForce, nothing’s wrong with you.”

This kept happening from November 2011 all the way to December 2016, when I told an audiologist in the St. George Clinic “I ain’t crazy, I can’t hear. Great, you keep giving me the tone tests, I keep passing. But when I’m in a classroom, when I’m at home, when I’m anywhere and awake, the whole of humanity sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Unless they are in my face with the volume of Drill Instructor Sergeant Fischer, I cannot understand them! You’re the guy who knows ears and hearing. Figure it out.”

The audiologist called a speech pathologist 360 miles away in Salt Lake City and scheduled an appointment. Two months out was the soonest I could get in to see her. For the record, in the entire state of Utah, there are maybe two speech pathologists directly employed by the VA who work in the Salt Lake City facility.

After undergoing a series of tests and three separate trips to SLC, the pathologist finally figured out what so many had missed: I had a traumatic brain injury. Somewhere along the way, I had gained one sufficient to scramble the nerves between my ear and brain so I could no longer properly process what I heard at a certain volume level. It’s so bad that on the bell curve, I’m in the 61st percentile, and show signs of gradually getting worse.

The diagnosis occurred in April. I amended a claim filed in February to include it. Take a guess what we learned in July, three months later: according to my paperwork, the VA rater only bothered to check my medical record in February when the original claim was filed, then stopped.

It’s a very long post, but it’s because my friend has been through hell. Read the whole thing so you can get an idea of just how bad the situation is.

See, as a veteran myself, Jonathan and I have talked about the fiasco that is the VA. I served during peace time, being out well before 9/11, but Jonathan wasn’t. He was a Marine artilleryman standing in the dust and wind of the Middle East, fighting for his nation, doing all he was asked to do, and now, he’s being treated this way. He’s dealing with this from the one agency expressly created to take care of those who were broken by war.

If the agency that is designed to care for the veterans of this nation’s armed forces are being treated like this, if my brother and sister vets are having to go through all of this just to get treatment from this bureaucracy, what do you think a single payer system will be like?

The fact is that his experiences mirror what we hear out of places like England and other single payer nations. Long wait times, indifferent bureaucrats who couldn’t care less if you died waiting on treatment, and diagnoses that seem designed to cost the taxpayers the least amount of money rather than to actually combat the symptoms. All of these are common…

…and they’re all in the VA.

Jonathan also goes on to point out the culpability of the VA in the rash of suicides among veterans. After all, if they have to go through hell before they can even get treatment, is it any wonder so many just give up?

Now can you see why so many veterans oppose single payer?