Jan 18, 2011

New Vet Affairs House Chair Says: Look at VA Cost, Efficiencies and Privatization

Update: Dan Cedusky reports: The DAV Cap Wiz site indicates that Rep Miller has voted against veterans on nine key votes. "Not a good record ... we better watch him closely," said Cedusky.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (Rep-Fla) is a former real estate broker and deputy sheriff who is now the new chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

By Michael Leon

If you think the Dept of Veterans Affairs (DVA or VA) and Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) have problems delivering benefits, Miller says that's because "unfortunately, the bureaucracy within VA has grown immune to having someone check their work." (Carlton Proctor, PNJ.com)

Miller's statement reflects a sentiment held by most veterans and advocates.

Another widespread belief is that Congress is bought and paid for; and many veterans are skeptical that change is coming at the VA, irrespective of significant gains in revised regulations that were garnered the last two years regarding Agent Orange and PTSD-related ailments and associated benefits.

Congress is not where change at the VA will begin, but Congress can make things worse.

Miller says he is concerned about the "cost" of newly appropriated tens of billions of dollars into the VA for improved benefits and health care.

"This is a huge government agency and there is a mindset within the agency that is hard to change. But I think we need to focus not only on delivery of services but the cost at which those services are being delivered to the veteran," said Miller. (Philpott)

Miller will be overseeing and not appropriating money and he says he is "more focused on helping to increase resources through efficiencies." (Philpott)

Is this Congress-speak for watch out veterans: We can fund war but not the people who fight them?

Miller, like almost all of Congress, is heavily financed by military-industrial interests. See Open Secrets where Health Professionals, Defense Electronics, Defense Aerospace and money figure prominently in Miller's Campaign committees.

So, the question arises will a new VA oversight chair ignore the Health industry money and military-industrial money and wage a campaign f0r more money for veterans when Rep. Miller's first published words are about costs and efficiencies?

One thing we do know is that Miller is a member in good standing of the J. Randy Forbes-Mike McIntyre Congressional Prayer Caucus. So, maybe a Hail Mary pass is doable if we all pray hard enough.

In an interview with journalist Carlton Proctor, PNJ.com, the following question and answer is published.

Q: The VA is the second-largest federal agency, with 300,000 employees and a $120 billion budget. Is that a sustainable cost going forward for the American taxpayer?

A: We have to find better ways to provide service and health care to the veteran community. I'm asking veteran service organizations to help me find ways to solve some of problems that exist financially in Washington. And I want to be an honest broker in this process, because, as a fiscal conservative, I have not been one who has voted to raise the amount of money to the extent that has been done.

Q: With growth of military population in the Panhandle, do you think there is a need to build a full-fledged VA hospital in the 1st Congressional
Q: Are you suggesting a kind of "voucher system" that would allow veterans to use private health care systems?

A: Yes. With three hospitals we have in Pensacola, and the many others we have in the district, there is excellent health care that could be afforded to the veteran community if there was a way to allow them to have private health care in their home community.

Q: What is this 112th Congress doing, or going to do, to deal with spiraling health care costs?

A: One of the largest problems that exists today is that nobody is confronting the actual cost of providing the care. Some will say that they have
tried to make it more affordable, and that may be true, but that is with the federal government subsidizing the cost of that care. Again, the issues like tort reform, negotiating prices, all of these things have to be looked at to solve the issue.
Confronting costs and vouchers. Sounds French for privatization, underfunding veterans and pumping money into the health-care industry which funds Miller's campaign committees.

Let's hope I'm wrong.

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