Veterans Day Festivities

The Concert for Valor is happening on Veterans Day, and all star extravaganza that’s sure to attract millions of viewers and generate millions in revenues for the sponsors. The veterans get honored, the companies get cash.

Now, far be it from me to denigrate anything that benefits veterans, and especially so for vets who’ve been disabled or suffer untold pain for years as they fight cancers and other incurable ailments that result from exposure to the contaminants of war. Everything from solvents to depleted uranium ammunition poses risks that may not appear for decades before they blossom into hell’s own gift. The pressure, sights and losses experienced by soldiers leaves a deep mark in the emotional health of veterans.  War is a kind of Hotel California; you can check in any time you like but you can never leave.

It always struck me as foolish that when Congress is approached for a war budget that it includes the transportation of soldiers, weapons, materiel, and sundry costs like food and entertainment. The budgets really don’t entail the whole picture, like extending past the expected deadline, equipment losses, and the expansion of the war bureaucracy. But most alarming is the failure to predict the costs of the wounded warriors. The ones that come home with missing limps, deep psychological scars, or the delayed reaction of cancer.

VA presumes the following diseases to be service-connected for such exposed Veterans: AL amyloidosis, chloracne or other acneform disease similar to chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma or mesothelioma), Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, acute and sub-acute peripheral neuropathy, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), all chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia), Parkinson’s disease, and ischemic heart disease.

For Veterans who participated in radiation risk activities as defined in VA regulations while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, the following conditions are presumed to be service connected: all forms of leukemia (except for chronic lymphocytic leukemia); cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder, salivary gland, urinary tract (renal pelvis, ureter, urinary bladder and urethra), brain, bone, lung, colon, and ovary; bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma; multiple myeloma; lymphomas (other than Hodgkin’s disease), and primary liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated).

Some Veterans may receive disability compensation for chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed illnesses and/or medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms. A disability is considered chronic if it has existed for at least six months.

The undiagnosed illness must have appeared either during active service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War period of Aug. 2, 1990, to July 31, 1991, or to a degree of at least 10 percent at any time since then through Dec.31, 2016. This theater of operations includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.

Examples of symptoms of an undiagnosed illness and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness defined by a cluster of signs and symptoms include: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, signs or symptoms involving the skin, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological signs or symptoms, neuropsychological signs or symptoms, signs or symptoms involving the respiratory system (upper or lower), sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal signs or symptoms, cardiovascular signs or symptoms, abnormal weight loss, and menstrual disorders. Presumptive service connection may be granted for the following infectious diseases if found compensable within a specific time period: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella burnetti (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, non-typhoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus. Qualifying periods of service for these infectious diseases include active military, naval, or air service in the above stated Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War period of Aug. 2, 1990, until such time as the Gulf War is ended by Congressional action or Presidential proclamation; and active military, naval, or air service on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.

Excerpted from VA Chapter 2 Service Connected Disabilities

That’s quite a list. It helps to understand the huge volume of patients the VA medical system is weighted with and with that in mind, the astronomical costs of that care. Of course, inefficiencies within the administration create a healthy amount of waste dollars. Then again, for a percentage of vets like me, the care we get is top tier. Sadly it’s not 100% as the many reports and studies (both governmental and private sector) show. A lot of this stems from empire building and ridiculous policies. The VA as an organization should be a centrally governed and distributed processing system.  The computers should be  private to the extent of providing patient privacy while existing in a shared environment. Veterans who require sudden medical care should be able to visit any medical center and have their records available to the attending physicians so doctors can make informed choices in the care they provide. And the patient’s primary physician needs to be able to see the care provided off-site for the same reasons. When I was set to a different VA medical center for radiation treatment, they were blocked from seeing my records. As a result, there was a two day delay in my treatments as a whole menu of tests had to be run in order to know enough about my case to proceed. I always wondered what that cost and how many times it happened across the 152 medical centers and 1400 community based clinics in the US. The very people working to help us do so in an environment that can be awfully frustrating.

So, while I really appreciate the thought of a Concert for Valor, I think I’d just as soon see the monies changing hands be directed to the necessary programs that help fill in those areas of assistance that aren’t directly addressed by the VA.  There should be no such thing as a homeless or hungry veteran and so the outreach programs could use the help to seek out and help the vets who won’t do anything that looks like taking a handout. They must be found and convinced they’re qualified and deserve these services. Agencies like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) could use some serious donations to provide the wonderful care and services they do.

Veterans are worth honoring and I’m glad it happens. But it sticks in my throat that people profit from their honoring efforts, it’s hard to find the line dividing honor from profit.