Chambers: Veterans' debt paid in full

Chambers: Veterans' debt paid in full

May 26th, 2014 by By Mike Chambers in Opinion Columns

First, to any veterans reading this, thank you. From Normandy to Inchon to Da Nang, from Fallujah to Kuwait, you answered the call, and risked being part of this day where the dead are honored for their service.

We give not a whit whether you are Democrat, Republican, or Green; you were willing to, and many did, spill blood for our nation. Your willingness to accept death for freedom gives us life.

On this Memorial Day, let us at least be willing to keep our promise to you that should you live through the risk and/or horrors of war you will be given any health treatment you need.

The current scandal within the Veterans Administration that patients were possibly delayed to the point of death from lack of treatment is abominable, a breach of faith, and I would argue, if proven, criminal. All the while, bureaucrats were given cash bonuses to trim patient lists, a troubling state of affairs by itself.

Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, says he's "mad as hell;" the president is said to be as "mad as hell."

So should we all be.

Our commander in chief claims outrage and promises action to address the problem. Like all of the scandals before, he claims to have known nothing until he read about it in the newspapers -- yet, as a senator, Obama claimed knowledge from the veterans' affairs committee, and was given warning of problems in the VA by the outgoing Bush administration.

To rub salt in the wounds, in March 2009, President Obama even had the department mulling the possibility of veterans paying for their own insurance through Tricare, even for combat-related injuries. Odd how the private market might be good enough for our warriors but not for the citizens they defend.

And do not buy the argument the system is simply overloaded by the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan vets; those warriors make up only 7 percent of total care and only 4 percent of actual costs.

The problem is not one that can be fixed around the edges -- it is systemic, a bloated top-down bureaucracy that is broken even more so than the brave men and women who seek care within it.

We owe you, and the vast majority of Americans are willing to pay for any and all health care you need. Why not eliminate the current structure and simply issue something like an "Ameri-Vets" voucher card to all who have honorably served in the U.S. armed forces?

The president needs to do more than "fire" a VA official who was slated for retirement anyway -- nothing more than a PR stunt.

First, be accountable, and should criminal charges come forth, so be it.

But then let our vets seek treatment at any hospital they wish, getting the care they need, close to family and friends. The details could be challenging, but certainly no less than the Obamacare average citizens are now being forced into, another top-down system where one size does not fit all, and one that will likewise lead to rationing.

But this would be a single-payer system worth supporting.

Veterans have already paid their portion of the bill -- in full.

Mike Chambers resides on Lookout Mountain.