Over the years, the Department of Veterans Affairs and its predecessors have had to adapt to an ever-changing population of veterans. The next four will be no different.
As the VA, Congress, and veterans’ advocates seek to improve and innovate, they should keep in mind what General Omar Bradley said when modernizing the post-World War II Veterans Administration – “We are dealing with [veterans], not procedures; with their problems, not ours.”
Concerned Veterans for America’s senior advisor Darin Selnick recently laid out three principles to guide reforms at the VA.
Veterans’ needs come first
Lawmakers must ensure VA reform prioritize the needs of veterans. Selnick writes:
The first principle is the veteran must always come first, not the VA. Legislation such as the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 and the VA MISSION Act of 2018 were bold moves toward veteran-centric policy, but we must build on that success.
Congress and the VA must continue improving the delivery of health care through proper implementation of the VA MISSION Act, especially the community care program and upcoming Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, an independent commission tasked with assessing whether the VA’s infrastructure meets the needs of patients.
Prioritize service-connected injuries and specialized needs
Next, those veterans with service-connected injuries and needs must be a priority. Selnick continues:
The second principle for better serving veterans is for the VA to prioritize those with service-connected disabilities, those who receive disability benefits, and those with specialized needs.
The VA is not just a health care provider. It is also a benefits and services administrator. But the system operates on a 1950s view of disability and compensation. We wouldn’t accept an approach to health care from the time of the Korean War. We shouldn’t accept an outdated approach to disability and compensation benefits, either.
Lead with courage
Finally, lawmakers and advocates must commit to working together to find the best solutions for veterans. Selnick concludes:
The final principle for better serving veterans is to lead with courage and commitment.
As Gen. Bradley said, caring for veterans is about “their problems, not ours.” Whether the arguments are petty squabbles or legitimate disagreements, Republicans, Democrats, the VA, and veterans organizations must put aside partisanship and siloed, myopic thinking. Reaching across the aisle shows a strong commitment to veterans that transcends politics.
There is still much work to be done but following these three principles will ensure veterans seeking health care from the VA receive the very best care.
Read the rest of Darin Selnick’s op-ed on VA reform in The Hill.