The Department of Veteran Affairs just announced its fiscal 2012 budget proposal (part of the President’s budget proposal to Congress). The Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Eric Shinseki promised to ensure that they are “making every dollar”count in the budget of $132 Billion. A retired four star Army general, the secretary, has the heart of a soldier for those who served and funding is critical to turning a few things around at the VA.
Caring for 6.2 million patients is a large undertaking and the “system” can be lethargic and not responsive to the veterans but Shinseki is trying to make the VA more responsive and up to the task of caring for our veterans. I remember making contact with one VA Center and during the conversation felt like I was definitely not talking to someone who cared! The VA needs to identify and eliminate non performers, especially those in the customer contact business! We should feel like we are the most important person in the world to them when we call or contact.
The lengthy delay when filing for veteran benefits is being addressed with additional resources and electronic (paperless) applications for benefits. I spoke to one veteran of the Vietnam War, who used the online application for Agent Orange problems, and he was very satisfied with their response. Their goal of 125 days from application to receiving benefits (at a 98% accuracy rate) is admirable but not effective till 2015 and demonstrates how long benefits can take in the current time frame (goal is more than 4 months and many now take much longer).
The VA’s budget includes funding for reducing homelessness among veterans, suicide prevention, upgrades to facilities, education and training, information technology upgrades and our national cemeteries. The national cemeteries are a great news story for the VA, being recognized for their efficiency and management. With the current fiasco at Arlington National Cemetery (which is currently run by the US Army) I would advocate, as some political leadership has, for the transfer of responsibility to the VA on this sacred ground.
The VA has entered into the social media world with blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. to reach out to veterans and their families which I applaud (I do wish they would allow posts on Facebook from military friendly users). They have done great things for wounded warrior caregivers with http://www.caregiver.va.gov/. The site provides resources, tools, support and contact information for those who face a daily task of caring for one of our seriously disabled veterans. If you would like to get some additional caregiver information please go to Being a Caregiver for Our Wounded Heroes. The VA blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/ provides up to date information on topics of interest to veterans and you can find them on Facebook too! Their website is located at http://www.va.gov/.
As Congress debates the President’s Budget Proposal for the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense, Congress need to consider the impact on veterans who have served this country. We recognize the need for government expenditures to be reduced for the economic health of our country (and for our grandchildren’s sake) but reducing benefits to our warriors is a broken promise! Finding other means to save dollars from a spend happy government should be easy!
To see the VA’s press release on their budget please go to MilitaryAvenue.com! We have numerous articles in our Reading Room for your pleasure and up to date information. We also posted a blog on the Defense Department Budget Proposal that you should read: Our Military Families and the Defense Budget of 2012 - DoD Roundtable.
Photo Credit: VA Budget Fast Facts http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/Fy2012_Fast_Facts_VAs_Budget_Highlights.pdf