Technical and medical advances have greatly improved survival rates for soldiers injured on the battlefield, but as a result there are more seriously injured veterans to treat within the VA system, according to Government Executive.com. A RAND Corporation study estimates that about 300,000 returning Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder (only half receive treatment for PTSD), and 320,000 have a traumatic brain injury.
I remember that in 2006, the VA was widely praised as a model health care system. In fact, I assigned a story on this very topic to a freelance writer I worked with. The VA boasted an efficient, timesaving electronic medical record (EMR) system, geographically widespread facilities, access to and support of new medical treatments and techniques, and lower prescription drug costs than many private health plans due to bulk drug purchases. The VA has been considered a possible model for a nationwide universal health care plan.
Its image has been tarnished more recently, with the mismanagement and neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported by the Washington Post in 2007, for example. There is currently a class-action lawsuit against the VA in
The fundamental problem is limited funding, which threatens the VA every year. This problem will only get worse as soldiers continue to return home with complex and expensive mental and physical health problems. The suicide rate is a stark reminder that the VA has failed to help these people.