How Bush's Budget is Impacting Soldiers He Pretends to Support
President Bush is requesting $87 billion dollars for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest request for the VA in history (this is separate from the $647 billion military budget). But veterans groups and many Democrats say it’s not enough during wartime. It could cost the VA at least $350 billion to provide disability compensation and health care to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, according to a Harvard University researcher's conservative estimate. Those costs could climb as high as $663 billion, if many troops remain at war much longer and health care costs inflate.
More than 1.4 million U.S. military members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in more than five years of combat. Of those troops, at least 24,527 have been wounded in action, according to the Department of Defense. An additional 28,000 or so have been injured or become so ill that they had to be evacuated from the war theater. And let’s not forget about the aging population from the Vietnam War.
Last year, the VA received more than 806,000 claims. The average processing time is 177 days.
The VA expects to treat about 5.8 million patients next year, including 236,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Randy Pleva, president of Paralyzed Veterans of America said, "It is unconscionable that this Administration would push veterans away from a health care system recognized as a world leader."
In some cases, the administration is pushing veterans to their death.
Last week, the Boston Globe ran an article about Jonathan Schulze, a 25-year-old Iraq vet who returned home from Iraq two years ago. It took him that long to stop drinking and seek help from the VA. He told a counselor he was suicidal, but he was told that the clinician who prescreened cases like his was unavailable. Go home and wait for a phone call. He received a call the next day and was told he was 26th on the list.
Four days later, he wrapped an extension cord around his neck, tied it to a beam in the basement, and hanged himself.
The case is currently under investigation by the VA.