Letter to the Editor: CAN THE V.A. PLAY A ROLE IN FIXING NATIONAL HEALTHCARE

To the Editor,

National Healthcare seems to be on everyone’s mind – but we’ve had a National Healthcare system for nearly a century. It’s called the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA Healthcare system in the past few decades has developed a Neighborhood Clinic system, which we’re proud to say, started right here in Rockland County and now has about 1,000 locations across this country.

In 1995 when we opened the first clinic here in Pomona, any veteran who served on active duty and was honorably discharged, was entitled to use the system. However, in January of 2003, someone decided to put a financial ceiling on the Veterans Healthcare System, so passed that point of January of 2003 only veterans who had a household income of below $50,000 annually would be able to enroll. I’m sure it was pure coincidence that this ruling came down six weeks before we went into Iraq in March of 2003. Now that Iraq is over and Afghanistan will soon be and maybe we’ve learned to stay out of war, our numbers of veterans are and will continue to drop.

Perhaps at this point it would be a good idea to lift the financial ceiling and allow all veterans to be seen again. This in one swift move could take many people off of the president’s list of uninsured. It would also free veterans of all ages from needing to sign up for Obamacare or be fined for not doing it. Then perhaps we could open this proven National Healthcare system gradually to veterans’ spouses, perhaps family, taking more uninsured off the rolls into a proven system. What I’m driving at is using the VA Healthcare system as a skeleton on which to build a larger system.

We also have military bases across this country and world – many have hospitals and healthcare facilities as part of their systems. We will again, I’m sure, be hearing the term ‘base closings.’ Before we take that step, perhaps we might think about leaving the healthcare portion of those bases in place. Since the VA and DOD (Department of Defense) Healthcare systems could lower the number of those uninsured, if this works in terms of enlarging, we could use these facilities to gradually treat our older and sicker citizens, starting for sake of argument, with those over 80, then 75, then 70, etc as the system built.

Just a thought because we know this system works and it could be built on rather than thrown out.

Sincerely,

Jerry Donnellan
Director, Veterans Service Agency of Rockland County