Mr. Zinsmeister began by acknowledging the shortcomings of the present VA disability system. It did not meet the needs of those it was intended to serve and was behind the times. The system was in such need of reform that a commission headed by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala recommended a total overhaul.
The new system aims to focus on rehabilitation, in order to help veterans lead the most productive lives possible. Some bloggers began to ask for specific examples of how this could be achieved.
Zinsmeister cited a simplification of the paperwork which largely cuts out the role of the Department of Defense, and will only decide if the person is fit to continue in the service. And if not, the person would get a lump-sum annuity payment and transferred to Veterans’ Affairs.
Ed Morrissey was uncertain how much of an improvement that would be, because the VA wasn’t easy to deal with. Zinsmeister acknowledged the truth of that criticism but said the VA system was going to be redesigned from scratch to make it a cleaner, rational system.
While the system was being altered there would be a transition benefit to keep people covered during the changeover. But the key changes, Zinsmeister repeated, would be towards providing more resources to complete the process of rehabilitation, including incentive payments for those who complete it. There will also be financial compensation for the injuries themselves and compensation for quality-of-life losses.
Zinsmeister said the President was scandalized over the shortcomings at Walter Reed and was determined to address the problems vets are facing.