Carroll County Times

Editorial: Veterans deserve better

Tuesday's summit put on by the Department of Veterans Affairs is a good step toward improving care for those who have honorably served their country, but until the massive federal agency takes care of basic problems such as unjust denials or long delays in processing claims, much of this latest public outreach effort will be for naught.
Tuesday's summit brought together dozens of statewide mental health provider agencies for discussions with the VA on how to enhance mental health care for veterans and establish lasting partnerships.
Participants said that they need a better understanding of what the VA offers in terms of mental health and knowing whether a person qualifies for VA care, as well as how to access those services.
The discussion also hit upon the negative perception some veterans have about the VA.
Those perceptions, oftentimes, are rooted in the problems that have come to light within the organization. From the mistreatment of patients at Walter Reed Medical Center in 2007 to veterans of our current wars having to wait, sometimes for years, to get care today, the issues have been well documented.
Last year, reported that the VA had a backlog of more than 860,000 disability claims. Of those, about 228,000 veterans had been waiting more than a year.
It doesn't make much sense to look for ways to bring in more veterans if you aren't able to process the claims that you are receiving now.
And to add insult to injury, while the VA had plans to open 38 new community outpatient clinics by 2017, a problem with leasing of buildings and government regulations has derailed, hopefully only temporarily, plans to accomplish that goal.
The VA has made great strides in recent years in terms of veteran care. And the nationwide series of summits currently taking place should provide additional insights concerning how the agency can continue to form partnerships and improve access to care for veterans.
Ultimately, however, the agency must also take care of the internal issues that continue to plague it, including long delays in processing some veterans' claims and the even longer period veterans must endure on their own if they appeal a claim denial.
We owe our veterans the best possible care, but that is something that even today, sadly, seems beyond the reach of the VA.