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Time to stop dumping on the VA

Kudos to Veterans Administration Secretary Robert A. McDonald for attempting to give VA medicine a good name ("VA is critical to medicine and vets," Oct. 24). The vast majority of your readers are probably unaware of the accomplishments he catalogs. He mentioned the electronic medical record (EMR). It was devised by a group of physicians and computer geeks on their own time, not as part of their official duties. The entire system was offered as open source software, free to anyone decades prior to widespread use of the EMR in civilian medicine.

A significant portion of my own training was at the VA medical center in Atlanta, where our chairman of medicine and best teacher, James Crutcher, went on the position now held by Mr. McDonald. At the time, we did not have terrible problems with access that have been seen recently, but we were not fighting two wars, or receiving the numbers or severity of casualties now seen. It seems obvious that these service members now returning with terrible medical problems are at the front of the line ahead of other patients.

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Access problems in VA facilities are the result of demand outstripping supply. I saw identical difficulties at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where we did not have enough money or personnel to fully meet the needs of our patient population. Similar difficulties are also seen at numerous civilian medical facilities, especially those responsible for care of inner city populations (Charity, New Orleans; Cook County, Chicago; Bellevue, NYC to name a few).

We need to curb our enthusiasm for dumping on VA medicine, since the accomplishments and level of patient care far overshadow deficiencies. The "scandal" is not the care delivered or access problems, but rather attempts to cover up the deficiencies.

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Dr. William L. Hunter Jr., Odenton

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