Veterans Day

Veterans Day and Looking Forward

Veterans Day is not just about those who served this great country, but also a call to action to address the issues surrounding Veterans.

This Veterans Day allows us to take a step-away from the politics of this week, and celebrate Americans who have paid a service to their country. Indeed, Veterans Day brings together to citizens, companies, institutions, and governments to salute those who have protected freedom and democracy across the globe to secure a safer world; in the words of Abraham Lincoln: “I am greatly obliged to you, and to all who have come forward at the call of their country.”[1]

In addition to offering thanks to those who have served, Veterans Day propels us to consider and address the issues surrounding Veterans. As the American Civil War concluded, Abraham Lincoln set the tone in his second inaugural address of the duty to address issues plaguing Veterans:

…Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan …[2]

Thus, let us consider acutely the issues—new and sustaining—that plague our Veterans, and ask for action.

Today, the Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to be a beleaguered government institution suffering from bureaucratic inclinations, and inefficiency. Indeed, the second-half of the Obama Administration has revealed an overburdened VA care system lacking proper healthcare, and service. Even at every turn to reform the VA, policies were muddled, misplaced, and missed their target by improper application. Furthermore, Veteran Support Organizations are committed to the preservation of the VA.

The VA currently sits as the largest government institution by person and funding, second only to the military. Yet, President-elect Trump has stated his VA reform includes a dump of more funding thereby making the institution even larger. In classic form, the government solution to the self-created problem is to feed the machine further.

However, I suggest a common sense approach to this solution that aligns nicely with the original meaning of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. During the Civil War, and subsequently thereafter, Veterans’ care predominately focused solely on service related health services. Consequently, the VA was at the forefront of dealing with service related injuries through the advancement and study of medicinal and health technology on acute topics.

Unfortunately, today, the VA can barely parse out any health service, let alone be at the forefront in the study and technology of service related injuries. Instead, private health institutions have largely displaced the VA on this front. Thus, to make the VA more capable it needs contraction, not expansion.

To that end, the VA needs to be released of taking care of general health issues of Veterans. Put another way, the VA needs to relinquish to the private sector all Veteran healthcare, which does not arise from a service related injury. In so doing, the VA would be unburdened of costly over-sized hospitals, and the erroneous pursuit of being a competitor to giving a flu vaccine, or administering the yearly check-up.

Instead, the VA would be sizably smaller, yet exponentially more capable, thereby taking back the position of being uniquely qualified to administer care of service related injuries. Here, VA locations would become more of health specialization centers focused on service related injuries, such as: mental issues like traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or post-traumatic stress (PTS), and; physical issues such as serious burns or amputations.

Simultaneously, Veterans would be released to the private health sector to address their general health issues ranging from a yearly check up to a vaccine to a stroke. In turn, Veterans would achieve not just a faster rate of care, but better care; moreover, the savings in VA funding could be put toward bringing the VA back to the forefront in service related medicinal research and technology. As a note, Veterans healthcare administered by the private health sector would continue to be fully funded.

Therefore, if the end goal of the VA is to serve Veterans by providing unparalleled health services to Veterans, it has epically failed. Moving away from service related health specialization centers in favor of overgrown comprehensive health centers, the VA has done so at the detriment of serving Veterans. Thus, to serve Veterans more uniformly and appropriately, new policy forcing contraction on the VA will exponentially increase the VA’s capability of serving Veterans. Consequently, Veterans will find specialized services at a uniquely qualified VA, while simultaneously achieve open and fast access to the private health sector for non-service related health issues.

[1] Abraham Lincoln, Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-fourth Ohio Regiment (August 22, 1864).

[2] Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865).