Jun 11, 2010

Rep. Henry Brown's VA Commentary Is Dodge-and-Confuse

The online Politico ran a piece this week by Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.), who has served on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for 10 years.

Rep. Brown advocates "forward-thinking and creative ideas" for serving our veterans, such as assistance dogs for veterans. Seems reasonable enough.

But one gets very cynical very fast when discussion of the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs [(DVA) (VA)] does not begin with some variation of the VA must be freaking kidding me! And with language like "without gratuitously increasing costs."

Total overhaul, complete restructuring, reversal of culture of "delay, deny and hope you die." A reader sees none of this in Rep. Brown's piece, and one wonders if Rep. Brown's piece is more dodge and confuse than advocating real change at the DVA—complete change, replete with some scalps of embedded VA neocons like Renee L. Szybala.

Here's an excerpt from the Politico, make up your mind:
There are more than 23 million U.S. veterans, according to the Veterans Affairs Department. These service members risked their lives to protect our country and defend our freedoms, and the VA’s benefits and services are a grateful nation’s token of appreciation.

It is no secret, however, that the costs of providing for our veterans are rapidly increasing. I am concerned that the $13 trillion national debt and the resulting budgetary pressure may eventually lead to unacceptable cuts in essential veterans services.

As more soldiers return home with mental and physical wounds, the need to improve and expand VA services intensifies every day. While I do not support cutting VA funds, if the VA hopes to effectively care for all veterans, it must find new and more efficient solutions to manage these expected costs.

I have spent my congressional career making sure that we properly care for our veterans’ needs. While expansion of veterans benefits has been my major focus, the continuing modernization of the VA has brought opportunities to develop these services without gratuitously increasing costs. ...

To give our veterans the best possible services, we must continue to encourage creative proposals that maximize services while improving efficiency.

Recently, I heard about a dog-training therapy program in Palo Alto, Calif., in which veterans with post-deployment mental health issues help train assistance dogs for placement with other veterans recovering from combat-related physical disabilities.

After I read news stories of the amazing improvement, even transformation, that occurred when a veteran in need of hope was given a dog in need of training, I introduced the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act. It will expand the California dog-training program to at least three VA medical centers across the country.

This novel approach to treating one of the war on terror’s signature wounds is a win-win. Veterans confronting mental health battles benefit from the sense of responsibility, normality and stability that the dog-training program provides.

Meanwhile, veterans who are physically disabled benefit from receiving well-trained assistance animals. And the dogs have a good time, too.

No, the program won’t be free. But its effect on veterans’ lives will be significant — and I was pleased to see this legislation pass the House this Congress.

From our nation’s earliest days, through civil strife and wars around the world, we have always considered our obligation to those who served in defense of our liberty and freedom to be a sacred bond.

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