• September 19, 2014
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Queens Chronicle

VA can’t do it all

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Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:30 am

Dear Editor:

Re your May 29 editorial, “Serving veterans and ending a war”:

As a Vietnam-era veteran (Air Force, 1964-68), I’m entitled to receive Department of Veterans Affairs medical care, but I shouldn’t be. And neither should thousands of other vets like me who have no service-connected disabilities.

Under current law, the VA is required to treat all honorably discharged veterans at its hospitals and clinics, even if their medical conditions are not related to their military service. World War II, Vietnam and Korean War-era vets are treated for age-related ailments like cataracts and prostate cancer that have nothing to do with their time in uniform. They are — or should be — covered by Medicare and able to get treatment at any hospital or clinic that accepts Medicare recipients. The same goes for many patients in VA nursing homes who do not suffer from afflictions acquired during their military stints.

Such unlimited coverage wasn’t always the case. The VA was initially mandated to treat only those vets whose physical and mental injuries and illnesses resulted from military service. That changed after aggressive lobbying by veterans’ groups. This expanded mandate is one reason why veterans who really deserve treatment wait so long for it.

Conversely, many vets who deserve VA medical care don’t get it because their discharges are other than honorable. GIs call these “bad paper” discharges, and they are often death warrants for military veterans who desperately need VA help but are denied it.

Limiting eligibility to vets who suffer from service-connected afflictions would improve the speed and quality of VA care. The rules governing discharges must change so all vets who deserve VA care can receive it.

Richard Reif

Welcome to the discussion.