The Veterans Administration provides extensive and comprehensive medical care for vets and their families at little or no charge. This service is sponsored and paid for at government expense using taxpayer money for a good purpose. This is excellent socialized medicine and this is how it could be, and should be, for everyone, according to Lynn Petrovich, CPA.
The VA Monologue
by Lynn Petrovich
“I don’t want to shock anyone here, have people dashing out of the room; but the VA is a socialized health care system. [So] that’s socialized medicine in the US. Anyone here want to bring up an amendment to eliminate the VA? Didn’t think so.” - Senator Bernie Sanders on the floor of Congress 7/15/2009
Professional athlete Mia Hamm was born with a club foot. Despite that fact, her feet literally corner-kicked Mia’s amazing rise to fame as one of the greatest soccer stars in history:
- At the age of 15, the youngest member of the US National team;
- Leading the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to 4 straight national championships;
- Helped the US win the first (ever) World Cup of Soccer;
- Winner of two Gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics;
- Scoring more goals (149) than any other female soccer player in the world;
- An inspiration to millions of girls across the globe.
Given her congenital defect, Mia’s accomplishments seem all the more amazing; especially when you factor in she grew up as an Air Force brat which required the family move often. Treatment for a club foot should begin immediately after a child is born and involves manipulating the tendons by stretching and rotating them on a weekly basis and then serial casting Sometimes, surgery is required; night braces are often worn past the age of two. For Mia, these medical procedures were performed by The Veterans Administration – all at little or no cost to her family.
I’d call this one a win for socialized medicine.
If a club foot deformity is not corrected, typical results are an abnormal gait, along with skin problems and infections, requiring a lifetime of chronic medical intervention.
The Veterans Administration, which has been around since1636 when the Pilgrims were at war with the Pequot Indians, is, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs website:
- “The most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans of any nation in the world.”
Its wide-ranging services include 152 hospitals, 800 community-based outpatient clinics (one in Brick, NJ where my dad, a World War II veteran, enjoys excellent, caring medical attention), 126 nursing home care units, and 35 domiciliaries. Employing over 13,000 physicians and 55,000 nurses, it operates under a global budget authorized each year by Congress (2013 budget $140.3 billion – a 10.5% increase over 2012) and according to the President’s FY 2013 Budget, maintains the following as top priorities:
- Expand Access
- Eliminate the Claims Backlog
- End Veteran Homelessness
Since 2009, critical program funding increases include
|Spinal Cord Injury||(36%)|
Funding for medical and prosthetic research and development has improved by six percent over the past three years; 80% of the VA’s information technology budget directly supports benefits and services.
So how is the VA socialized medicine?
Because treatment is based on patient need, not ability to pay. The VA is not profit-motivated (so-called “free” market), treating all patients regardless of preexisting conditions. Its comprehensive, federally (taxpayer) funded budget employs the staff, owns the facilities, coordinates the research and development, finances capital improvements, and maintains outreach programs. In direct contrast to our corporate-controlled profit-first health care system, physicians employed by the VA make decisions on patient care not predicated on approval first from giant, apathetic insurance conglomerates.
Those in the VA health system who have little or no financial resources can actually be treated instead of getting kicked to the curb due to their inability to pay.
Do the majority of Americans know the VA is socialized medicine? I’d say not because over the past few decades, the ownership of media communication channels has been consolidated (and the message controlled) by a select few capitalists (ABC, FOX, CBS, and don’t forget NBC which is owned by General Electric).
Here’s FOX’s Bill O’Reilly on socialism:
“It’s long past time for Americans to wake up. The far left in this country want to diminish personal power and impose social justice on the nation. They want to erode our personal freedoms in order to right what they consider wrongs brought about by capitalism. Socialism has no place in the USA. Period.”
Bill O’Reilly Are you a Socialist? Pinheads and Patriots 2/12/10
Now I ask: Who in their right mind wants social justice in America?
And just another thought: Aren’t our personal freedoms expanded by the ability to seek medical care when needed without regard to economic status?
Here’s Rush Limbaugh on his 4/28/10 radio show explaining why socialism is stupid:
- “[Socialism] has never worked; it cannot work because socialism is in direct violation of human nature.”
Huh? The VA treats the most critically wounded without regard to payment in direct violation of human nature?
I wonder if Rush Limbaugh has ever taken a dump.
I ask because our communities’ sewer systems are socialized structures of waste removal.
Rush Limbaugh’s $400 million, 8-year syndicated contract to tow his corporate master’s rhetoric allows him to broadcast on no less than six hundred (publicly owned) airwaves in all 50 states and overseas on Armed Forces Radio (wonder how soldiers feel about his anti-socialist – thus anti-VA - rages). His devoted followers, known as “ditto heads” conservatively number in the tens of millions. How can citizens get (accurate) information under that kind of dictate?
Brendan Marrocco was a bright, spry, charming 22 year old Army soldier when a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle on Easter Sunday 2009 in Baiji, a town in northern Iraq. He is the first quadruple amputee to survive the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His mother, Michelle, after seeing him for the first time:
- “I would close my eyes and see a head and a torso.”
Thanks to the doctors, medics, nurses, and surgeons on the front lines, these soldiers receive excellent, critical, timely, and extensive medical treatment without any prejudices. Can you imagine Humana, Aetna, or Blue Cross running the medical facilities in Afghanistan? “Eh, before I reattach your leg, can I ask how you’re going to pay for that?”
Or the more repulsive: “You know that reattachment is gonna cost you an arm and a leg.” (Outrageous and inflated medical bills are the number one reason for bankruptcy filings in the US)
With the return of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan along with veterans from other eras, the Department of Veterans Affairs treats over 5 million veterans each year and is responsible for a total of about 24 million.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Report dated 12/21/2007, pgs 5-6:
- “VA tracks many aspects of its health care along the dimensions highlighted by the ION [Institute of Medicine…including] Safe, Effective, Patient-Centered, Timely, Efficient, and Equitable [guidelines] – providing care that does not vary in quality because of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and socioeconomic status.”
Further, page 9:
- “While some [veterans] have serious injuries, most are relatively healthy; the average cost of patients with special eligibility status was only $2,600 in 2006, compared with about $5,800 for all VA patients.”
Our Veterans Administration treats the most critical, chronically wounded citizens - for pennies on the dollar - compared to their capitalist counterparts.
The CBO Report (page 8) estimated the VA health care cost per enrollee grew by only one point seven percent from 1999 to 2005 (three tenths of one percent annually). Private sector insurance market premiums jumped by more than 70% during the same time.
From his book “Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Healthcare is Better than Yours” by Phillip Longman:
- “In study after study published in peer-reviewed journals, the VA beats other health care providers on virtually every measure of integration of care, cost-effectiveness, and patient satisfaction. The VA is also on the leading edge of medical research, due to its close affiliation with the nation’s leading medical schools, where many VA doctors have faculty positions.”
So why aren’t we having a discussion about a health care system with over three hundred years of proven qualitative, cost-effective experience in treating everyone from traumatic brain injury to club feet? Why are we not talking about the VA model as a means of universal health care for all Americans?
Oh yeah, I forgot: Corporate control of the message by our manipulative economic system which puts profits before people and dumbs us down in the process.
Lynn Petrovich © Copyright. Permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this credit is attached and the title remains unchanged. Lynn Petrovich is a CPA and freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org