A report came out yesterday on FederalTimes.com about a veteran who received $63,000 in VA benefits for claiming he was blind, when he was actually driving himself to appointments. While this may sound like a headline from the Duffle Blog, this is one of many serious issues plaguing our VA system.
Too often do we hear about the VA failing our veterans, but we rarely talk about veterans failing the VA or failing their fellow veterans. Yes, these are men and women who stood up and answered their nation’s call to service, but that does not absolve them from fraud and waste on an already strained system. After doing a little more digging, I found some troubling data points that tell a larger story.
While this data is a bit outdated, in FYI 2008, the VA reported 3.1 million “no-shows” to scheduled appointments at VA outpatient clinics. Those are 3.1 million appointment slots that could’ve been used by other veterans in need, including mental health appointments. Clearly the VA has some capacity issues in many areas of treatment, but they are not the only ones to blame for this.
Another study published in the America Journal for Public Health states that, “Most veterans’ self-reported symptoms of PTSD become worse over time until they reach 100% disability, at which point an 82% decline in use of VA mental health services occurs; no change in use of VA medical health service occurs.” (Note: this is a small sample size but alarming nonetheless) Disability benefits have skyrocketed since the early 2000’s and while most of these cases are well-deserved, there are many who have used disability payments to subsidize low-income, or no income at all. The system was set up to compensate veterans for legitimate injuries and wounds incurred while serving in uniform, not to subsidize your future lifestyle.
While the data tells part of the story, we all also have our anecdotes to it back up. A Marine from my former unit, Trevor Snyder, is a prime example of someone “working the system.” He has not only made his rounds at the VA Compensation office, but he has also tapped into the kind hearts of the nonprofit world. He has a service dog, a free home gym, and now is being built a free home in Pensacola, FL by Operation Finally Home. The story he used to obtain these handouts is completely fabricated and our whole unit knows it. Snyder was never hit by an IED and there was no attack that was repelled after that incident.
All this said, I am not saying the VA or veteran serving nonprofits are perfect. I am just trying to put a call-to-action out there for veterans to start policing our own. If we clean up the waste and fraud among our ranks, we can collectively serve our veterans and their families more efficiently and effectively.