I am appalled at the misinformation and apathy towards our Veterans and Department of Veteran Affairs, and I want to shed some light, backed by actual facts. Tonight I was reading some posts about the VA and comments by many people and veterans that were critical of my opponent and his empty support of Veterans. I also saw posts from one of his outreach staff persons supporting their boss. I share the criticism expressed, and I am writing to give my thoughts and research on how Gus Bilirakis has failed our Veterans.
For the past decade, we have been at war. During this time we have had over 2.75 million troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and other combat areas. Our field medics and hospitals are the best the world has ever seen, and our soldiers now come home with combat injuries that would have meant certain death in previous wars. For the past decade, as our soldiers have returned home, the medical needs of newly returning soldiers has steadily increased, and yet Congress has refused to provide funding to handle the influx of new veterans in need of service.
Our returning troops suffer from high levels of psychological disorders, hearing loss, vision loss, loss of limbs, traumatic head injuries, parallelizations, substance abuse issues, PTSD, and many many other physical and mental injuries. They risked life and limb to defend us and we owe them. Despite the increased need, Mr. Bilirakis’s position has been “we just cant throw money at the problem”. This can be seen and heard on the radio address he gave on May 21, 2016. This should offend every single veteran and veterans group in the nation,a s well as all civilians that claim they support our troops. To be fair, it is not just him but his entire party.
The VA needs to be funded adequately to treat all our vets. There is no discussion about this fact. They defended us, we owe them. We had the money to send them to war now Congress has the obligation to spend the money to treat them. After the long wait times were discovered, Congress should have immediately increased funding to add access to Doctors and rented space for offices to start treating the veterans waiting to be seen. Honestly, how hard is that?
As much as Mr. Bilirakis and other obstructionists want to blame the President, it is Congress that funds the VA. The president has no authority to spend money not authorized by Congress. It is Congress’s duty to fund. Mr. Bilirakis’s statement that we cant just throw money at the problem is the chant for privatization. The VA must not be privatized. A recent report shows the Veterans using the VA get better medical care then people in the private market place and they like the care they get. They deserve the best and Congress should give them the best.
CONGRESSIONAL REPORT SHOWS HIS FAILURE
According to the Congressional Commission on Care Final Report, the VA has identified $51 billion dollars it needs in capital funding because they have only been receiving 2 billion a year. According to the congressional report, shifts in population require the building of new facilities and the shrinking of others. Because of the large population shift to the Tampabay area, the VA requested and received a promise for 14 million dollars for a New Port Richey VA facility. Years later that money is still sitting and we still have no facility. This is unacceptable.
The congressional report illustrates the difficulty the VA has in bringing new space online for treating Veterans. ” Of particular concern is an apparent breakdown in the process of bringing new clinics online and renewing the leases of existing clinics. With current law requiring congressional approval of any lease with an average annual rental of more than $1 million, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ruling has upended the approval process and halted the leasing program.Indicative of the scope of the problem, VHA’s then USH testified in 2013 that VA, since 2008, had opened 180 leased medical facilities, 50 of which required authorization as major leases. Currently, 24 major VA leases are in limbo.” pg. 58. The report went further to explain why leasing was preferable to buying. “One of the primary benefits of leasing is that it can provide flexibility and speed. But the time VHA has required to execute a lease, from planning through to activation, has taken almost 9 years in the case of a major lease, in contrast with private-sector expectations of build-to-suit leases that often take fewer than 3 years.” pg 59. This 9 year delay is a direct consequence of our do nothing congress and the veterans affairs committees, of which Mr. Bilirakis is a co-chair.
I have been arguing about for years that the VA is being under funded and is one reason I entered this race. Congress must increase funding and capacity to handle the huge number of Veterans needing specialized medical care because of their defense of America. Mr. Bilirakis, tweeted that the Congressional Commission on Care Final Report supported his position that giving money to the VA is not the answer. Just as I asked him on his twitter feed, I will ask again, Did you even read the report? I have, all 300 plus pages of it. This congressional report is a scathing indictment of the “we just cant throw money at the problem” position of Mr. Bilirakis. He sits as Co-Chair on the committee, he knows one of the main problems is under-capitalization. This report does not support his position, it shows the hollowness of it.
The congressional report even criticizes Mr. Bilirakis’s efforts to privatize the VA by allowing veterans to go to private doctors if they cant get into the VA facility fast enough. This privatization was unfunded, so the care our soldiers received in the private market place, whihc is less cost effective and much more expensive, took money out of the VA system and limited the money that was available to the VA for treatment of veterans.
So My two cents is I call BS. I am sure he helps individual veterans that call him for help as his staff person says, but if he would work towards fixing and funding the problems, most of these Veterans would not have to call him for help, and he would make the life of each and every Veteran easier.
HIS NEW BILL
His bill for opiate abuse of Veterans also shows his failures. What does his bill actually do? For starters, it adds veterans opiate usage into all state governments doctor shopping database, so if a veteran goes to other doctors for more pills because he lost his, he needed more, or for whatever reason, that veteran will then be at risk of criminal prosecution.
His bill requires committees to be formed, research to be done, testing, and evaluations into different treatments. While these things all sound great, they are unfunded by appropriations, which means all the money that is needed to do all these tasks and report to Congress must be taken from money that could otherwise be used for treatment of our soldiers. Finally there is a huge bonus section, at the end of HIS bill, that again takes money away from patient care because it is unfunded.
Finally, he speaks of the need of this legislation due to the high number of soldiers that commit suicide everyday, 22. This has been a problem since he has been in Congress for the past ten years, and being on the Veterans Affairs committee, he should have been aware of it. Where has his solution been for the past ten years?
Mr. Bilirakis has had 10 years to show his commitment to OUR veterans and to US. He has failed. He wraps him self in the flag for votes, but has not done what he could have and what he should have. Read all of his posts, and see what his bills are. Read what he says about just not throwing money at the problem. What is his solution? His town halls. What really comes out of those? Does our homeless Veteran population have housing? Does our veteran population that can work have work? Is our Veteran population receiving the care they deserve?
As I have been saying for years. There are only three ways to end unreasonable waiting times. They are 1) adequately fund the VA so that they can hire more Doctors and care providers and increase capacity, 2) privatize, and 3) let our veterans die waiting for care. Those are the only solutions. Congress’s inaction to fund has already caused deaths and that is an unacceptable solution. The second option, privatize is the real reason the VA is not being funded. To Gus Bilirakis and many Congressman, privatization of the VA is their objective, just as it is with social security, prisons, military contractors, schools, and every other aspect of governmental purpose so they can get their friends in the private sector richer with our tax dollars. Privatization is not an option to me. I refuse to throw our veterans out of a system that provides better care then the private sector does, and subject them to the greed, red tape, and difficulty of the private market place. One of Congress’s solutions is to give a voucher to offset some of the costs of private insurance and let our veterans fend for themselves. Our Veterans deserve better then that, not to mention the fact that their injuries require special care and treatment that the private marketplace is not able to provide.
Maybe this post and my continuing calling out of our congressman for his hollow claims of supporting the troops will get that facility located in New Port Richey, and get him to do his job.
To be fair, I will say, that the part of the bill looking for alternative treatments is great, it is too sad that studies have to be done first before it can help everyone. It also is too bad that it is just another unfunded mandate, but at least it is something.
Please contact me if you have any ideas or thoughts, and you can even contact me with hate mail if you like. Join my fight to make the VA work for the Veterans. www.tagerforcongress.com www.facebook.com/tagerforcongress.