Viva the VA
Peters, Charles, The Washington Monthly
"Veterans Defend VA Care" was the headline over a recent article by Kate Long in my hometown paper, the Charleston Gazette. "You couldn't be treated any better than they treat you here," a local veteran told Long, describing the treatment of patients at the Charleston Veterans Health Administration Clinic. Another veteran said: "They treat you with respect. You got a problem, they get onto it. Any test you need, you get it." The much larger veterans' hospital in nearby Huntington, West Virginia, where more specialized care is provided, received similar reviews.
Cynics might suggest that the
excellent care for West Virginians reflects the state's two senators, Robert C. Byrd, whose record for bringing home the bacon is unexcelled, and John D. Rockefeller IV, who happens to be a former chair of the veterans affairs committee.
But the fact is that veterans' hospitals nationally have been praised not only by this magazine ("The Best Care Anywhere," by Phillip Longman, January/ February 2005), but also by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and BusinessWeek, which said they provide "the best medical care in the U.S."
This doesn't mean, however, that there aren't problems, either present or looming. From the recent Bob Woodruff special on ABC, we know that VA hospitals weren't prepared for the influx of brain injuries caused by IEDs in Iraq. Furthermore, most World War II veterans are now in their eighties, the time when health problems multiply. …