January 26, 2009:
In yet another effort to make life easier for the troops, the U.S. Department of Defense has streamlined its procedures so that troops suffering from serious injuries can go from active-duty to retired status in a few months. Previously, this had taken a year or more. For troops who are so badly injured that they must be retired on 100 percent disability pay, it's to their advantage (financially, and administratively) to do so as quickly as possible. But, until the new changes, the paper shuffling and decision making required to make it happen, took a lot longer. About 200 troops a year will benefit from this changes.
Ever since the American Revolution, the issue of how veterans should be treated has been prone to excite moral outrage, political grandstanding, lurid headlines, and even a little action to improve the care for veterans. The Veterans Administration has actually improved its care over the past decade, to the point where opinion surveys show that veterans rate their care, by the Veterans Administration hospitals, as superior to what they encountered in the commercial health care system. A study of Veterans Administration health care, by a team of medical professionals, found that health care for veterans had, indeed, risen to a level higher than that available for non-veterans.
But the war on terror has generated over 25,000 wounded, and even more sick and injured troops, over the last six years. This is a much lower casualty rate, for the size of the force, than in past wars, and you'd think that the military health care system could handle it. In terms of immediate health care, they did. It was the after care, and the services required for dependants and active duty reservists, that overwhelmed the system. The military bureaucracy has been consistently unable to cope with the blizzard of paperwork that accompanies any increase in benefits, including healthcare, provided to military personnel. Reserve troops, mobilized for active duty in the last seven years, have been major victims of these bureaucratic catastrophes, as have badly wounded troops who required quick, not bureaucratic, responses to their needs.