Jim Adams: Let’s Give NH veterans a Real Choice

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 @ 12:08AM

This opinion piece originally appeared in the Union Leader on April 24, 2016

We have read with disgust the stories of wait lists being fudged for bonuses with veterans dying waiting for care. The Veterans Administration office of the inspector general has even found deceptive records in Manchester and White River Junction, Vt.

Enough is enough.

Our brave veterans were willing to give up all of their tomorrows so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. We promise these brave veterans that if they are wounded or injured, their country will take care of them. I am sorry to say this nation has let our veterans down miserably. New Hampshire is the only state in the country without a fullservice VA Hospital. And to that end, New Hampshire veterans have been required to drive long miles to get care. It is unforgivable to treat our New Hampshire veterans in this manner.

I propose a solution so simple yet so profound I feel we can keep the promise we made to our veterans that we on the homefront will have their backs, just as the veterans who served with them in combat did.

New Hampshire has about 116,000 veterans, with about 43,000 enrolled with the VA for medical care. My proposal is to utilize our state’s non-VA hospital system already in place. It’s important to note, depending on the area of the state, these hospitals average only 42 percent usage, i.e., occupancy. This approach would let the veterans decide which hospital closest to their home they want to have care, and which doctors they want to provide that care.

The VA, as a result of the recent failures, has instituted a system called Health Net Federal Services, which has had mixed reviews. That’s because Health Net is not paying health-care providers in a timely manner and veterans must get pre-approval for appointments. The new proposal will put our veterans first and not be so complex and will be a far more efficient use of our taxpayer dollars, with the VA funding the additional financial resources necessary to provide this service.

The billions of dollars now spent by the VA on health care would be disbursed through a voucher system to the area hospitals, and with proper oversight, would provide care for these veterans near their residences, which makes the entire process less stressful on the veteran and his/her family. I would much rather have a veteran in need of open heart surgery or a complex orthopedic procedure select a surgeon to perform the operation who completes six to eight such surgeries a week, rather than be in a system where the surgeon completes six to eight procedures every couple of months.

This is a serious problem; but like the many other problems facing our country, it can be fixed. Let’s begin with those who have sacrificed the most for the way of life we all hold so dear. I believe the federal government should not be in the business of providing health care. The VA presently does a very good job of guaranteeing VA home loans. But it is not in the banking business. It just guarantee the loans for qualified veterans. The VA also administers the GI Bill regarding higher education. But it is not in charge education. In both cases, the VA administers these two important systems well. The VA should be very capable of administering a health-care delivery system in the same manner by funding the care, not providing it.

Our current private sector health-care delivery system is capable of solving the existing VA health-care problem under this proposal.

This process will greatly help our inner city and rural hospitals. Now is the time to keep our promise to our veterans and their families and let them know a grateful nation has not forgotten them or their health-care needs.

Jim Adams is a Vietnam veteran and a member of the State Veterans Council.

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