13 May 2015

VA C-123 Update: "Nothing to report, Be patient."

"Nothing to report, Be patient."

That was today's report when I asked for an update from a VA official. "Be patient," was the reply, as it has been all along.

Five months into the post-IOM process (counting from the January 2015 IOM report, and four years two months into the claim process (counting from our first C-123 Association veterans' claims) we're asked to be patient.

These months and years have been a very long time to do without VA medical care. No VA or other public employee with health care coverage would tolerate such a delay in their health care.

But VA's inertia and disinterest, preceded by VA's determination to prevent claims regardless of merit, has left veterans without life-saving and quality of life enhancing service.

Besides denied medical care and disability compensation, C-123 veterans have been forced to forfeit pharmacy, dental, optometry, rehab, counseling, hospice, home health care, independent living services and all the other VA programs designed around the needs of disabled veterans.

Its not that VA disagrees with C-123 veterans' eligibility for care. Its just that they haven't gotten around to resolving whether it is to be provided by legislation, regulation or some other process.

This doesn't come as a complete surprise to VA. After all, they are the ones who proposed the IOM study in 2012 (although they also quickly broke their promise to do the study) and who finally ordered the C-123 study in 2014, which was finally submitted to the Secretary on January 8, 2015. The IOM report would only have one of two findings...C-123 veterans were exposed, or they were not.

Two possible outcomes. Neither of which VA prepared for during the year-long study, and now VA continues to insist they are coming out with something in a few weeks or so. Did the answer somehow catch VA by surprise, as they had only a year or so to anticipate the result and prepare?

Only two responses to the C-123 report had to be considered: were the veterans exposed and harmed, or not? VA prepared for neither conclusion, virtually welcoming its own lack of preparation as justification for five more months of delay. Assurances about VA's C-123 veterans' program announcement were given to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee under oath in February, yet nothing happened that we know of. Similar promises made during the last five months had similar results...nothing.

We know there are folks inside VA who care mightily about us, as is their duty. Unfortunately, their struggle within the Department pits them against numerous staffers whose personal policies conflict with the IOM recommendations, and who are far less motivated to permit our access to VA care – we might even say, based on the track record, many VA staffers remain as determined as ever to prevent our claims despite all legal and scientific merit.

Today, the word from VA was "samo-samo." Meaning go away, find your medical care somewhere else. Anywhere but the VA. Be patient.

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