Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pointing Up a Vital Distinction

In the fallout from the Walter Reed scandal, I am afraid that a vital distinction is being lost.

Walter Reed is not a VA hospital.

Walter Reed is an active duty military hospital.

Veterans Administration hospitals are operated under the auspices of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Walter Reed, like Brooke and Tripler Army Medical Centers, and the Naval medical facilities at Bethesda and San Diego, and Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland AFB, and all other military medical centers treating the active duty and war wounded, operates under the auspices of the Department of Defense.

The VA health system, under the leadership of Undersecretary Dr. Michael Kussman, was a government system done right before they were overrun by a flood of Iraq and Afghanistan war wounded. The VA computer system is the envy of all civilian healthcare employees who struggle mightily with archaic HIS systems. I know from HIS platforms - I've been a Cerner Pathnet and Meditech "Super User" in every facility I have ever been employed by that used those data management systems. The VA system rocks.

It is an apostacy that the VA faces funding cuts at a time that the active duty services are rushing to dump their wounded off onto the VA system.

The VA is the largest provider of mental health services to the returning veterans of America’s current military actions. Over a million troops have rotated through Afghanistan and Iraq, with a quarter million of them at minimum needing counseling services because they face readjustment issues. Yet they are facing staff cuts and closing of the Vet Centers that provide these crucial services. As a result, troops are not getting the care they need - the care they deserve - sometimes to tragic ends.

It is high-time the VA be fully funded and the Vet Centers fully staffed.

A country that can not or will not adequately accommodate the needs of those it sends to war needs to stop sending its sons and daughters off to war.

Editorializing aside, it is vital to remember that VA Medical Centers and Military Medical Centers are two separate and discreet entities, answering to different cabinet secretaries.

The Military Medical Centers answer ultimately to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The VA Medical Centers answer ultimately to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson.

Remember the distinction and do not let the media or the politicians conflate the two.

Doing so is a disservice to those who serve and that is not conducive to accountability.

[Cross-posted from Watching Those We Chose]

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