Standard of Care

December 7, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Posted in health | Leave a comment
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Soldiers Home, Washington, DC 1898

Soldiers' Home, Washington, DC 1898

An Environmental Working Group analysis of tap water tests from 1998 through 2002 shows that customers of Washington Soldiers Home Colony drank water containing up to 12 pollutants. Washington Soldiers Home Colony is one of 65,000 water suppliers across the country wrestling with treating water polluted by sprawl, sewage, factory farms, and industry.

Of the 1.8 million female military veterans, … 7,000 to 8,000 … are homeless, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

About one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the Armed Services. On any given day, as many as 250,000 veterans (male and female) are living on the streets or in shelters, and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.

“It is just not Walter Reed,” Oliva slowly tapped out on his keyboard at 4:23 in the afternoon on Friday. “The VA hospitals are not good either except for the staff who work so hard. It brings tears to my eyes when I see my brothers and sisters having to deal with these conditions. I am 70 years old, some say older than dirt but when I am with my brothers and sisters we become one and are made whole again.”

The number of veterans making outpatient visits to the three primary care facilities and five clinics that make up the VAPittsburgh Healthcare System has increased:

  • 2002 — 408,678
  • 2003 — 434,243
  • 2004 — 450,710
  • 2005 — 452,599
  • 2006 — 480,927

Many returning veterans, of course, face more mundane problems, like finding work and housing in a deteriorating economy, and the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by President Bush this year, was designed to provide a new generation of veterans returning from his long war with educational benefits to help them in the job market.

One of the biggest challenges the nascent Obama administration will face in the medium term is the fate of the ballooning numbers of U.S. combat veterans. The ability of the new president to keep his promises to these American heroes will be a litmus test of both his integrity and his technocratic skills, because providing the services they have been promised will require both fighting political battles and overcoming management inefficiency.

This fall, however, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs will decide whether to expand a pilot program that has the potential to dramatically change the treatment of those disabled in the line of duty. Started in November and currently limited to the Washington metropolitan area, the program takes aim at a bureaucratic redundancy that has long bedeviled injured troops leaving the armed forces. This is the double take in which — before discharge — the Army, Navy, or Air Force first conducts an exit exam of a departing service member to assess any conditions that might trigger military disability benefits, and then — after discharge — the VA conducts its own entry exam of the same individual for the same conditions to determine eligibility for VA benefits.

(Photograph courtesy of The Library of Congress)

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