Category Archives: Health Care

Veterans Health Care – My Experience

If you’re a U.S. military veteran. or a family member of a veteran, then this blog post is for you. Those whom are also interested in government managed health care, and haven’t first hand knowledge, this may help you.

Most of what I’m going to discuss is only one man’s opinion, but in a sea of opinions, I’m going to do my best to accurately inform anyone still reading past the opening paragraphs.

CH-46s on runway destined for Viet Nam

CH-46s on runway Kaneohe Hawaii, destined for Vietnam

I’m a Vietnam era veteran. That means something specific, and to anyone that has also served during a time of war, but wasn’t a directly involved participant, meaning they weren’t in the designated country, served in a non-combat role, their benefits may differ from those serving during peace time operations.

The VA has different designated levels of assistance, depending on the time someone has served. They provide service for all in some capacity, but you may need to pay more for services rendered, depending on your current income, and when you served. Those details are available online, and if you aren’t aware of them, please follow this link.

VA heath care and the Affordable Care Act.

If you read the information, don’t fully understand it, and need more help, you can drop a response at the bottom of this post, along with your real name and how to contact you. Nothing you send will be automatically posted. I have to review comments before yours goes public. If you send personal information, I’ll not publish it. Of course I’m hoping I won’t be deluged with questions or some scammer trying to take advantage of my willingness to help explain what the VA can provide. I may just post a link, if I see the answer already available for your specific question.

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Me standing outside of a TAC – 1975

I want to encourage any veteran or family member that hasn’t been involved with VA health care to not defer or postpone the services which you’ve earned. Of course, if you’re enlistment or your appointment with the military wasn’t based on what you might later receive, it’s natural to ignore your benefits.

I enrolled about 2 years ago. Since then, I’ve been in for two annual physicals, and an eye examination and a new prescription with glasses.

I went into the Atlanta VA hospital yesterday on a scheduled surgery. It was a same day, recovery at home afterwards type of care. I went in at 9am and was out by 5pm. 0900 & 1700, military time.

I can tell you my experience was as positive as I’ve had. As it has not been my first or second hospital rodeo. I think my national and international health care provided experience gives me a basis from which I can make comparisons.

I’m at home recovering today. The surgery appears to be completed without complications. I’ve had two calls from the VA. The last one was from one of the doctors who assisted in the surgery. She left her pager number on the discharge sheet in case I have a problem.

All of that without copay or out of pocket expenses. That of course is based on my time, duration of service and current level of income. If you’re a veteran or a close family member, I urge you to become acquainted with the VA. Be sure you’re not missing out on health care services. If you’ve read or heard horror stories, which I’m not going to suggest aren’t based on fact, my experience doesn’t align with those concerns. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

Find a VA location near you.


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Plenty of Blame to Go Around

I read this article, first referenced by someone I connect with through Facebook. Admittedly, its a long article, and mine isn’t much shorter. Such is the challenge when you look at a major systemic problem. It can’t be answered through memes or twitter posts. I could go into a more in depth discussion on what this article attempts to explain, but I believe it would only be lost in the Ether. Current popular ideas circulated throughout many social media exchange points as well as mass media, run adverse to what I have to say in rebuttal to this article. I believe her article serves to promote a political ideology, which becomes more obvious as you get to the end, and realize it’s a promo to Bernie Sanders. I’m not interested in promotion of a candidate, a party or ideology. I prefer substance and facts. Obviously, even in the best of efforts, prevailing opinion and quotes from others, denote a view point.

I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump
by By Jonna Ivin – April 1, 2016

Her article makes references to things which are historical and tries to draw parallels between some historical facts, and the authors politics without any rational explanation as to why she thinks Republicans are nothing more than a bunch of greedy, up with the rich, down with the poor, racist political hacks. Her explanation of war profiteering is the age old method of blaming the wealthy for creating wars with the thinnest of explanation, other than noting that such a thing exists. All of us would do well with this simple foundation of logic, correlation doesn’t necessarily indicate causation. Again we see the narrative, the wealthy have done better while the poor have done worse because of the greedy, racist, Republicans.

Statistics are wonderful and they can be used to say a lot about whatever the individual displaying them wants to say. Permit me the opportunity to politely disagree with some of these assumptions. First, I’ve lived through many years and most especially the Reagan years, which many now wish to disparage. Second, if you want to believe that one party owns the responsibility of the pain and suffering, you’re being setup and are not being intellectually honest. Both political parties have controlled and promoted their own selfish interests. Don’t believe me, then let’s further examine some of these ideas.

Since 1945, the House and Senate have been controlled by different parties only five times (10 years). And there have been only two complete turn-overs of Congress since 1945: one in 1949 and the other in 2007. The years for Congress controlled by Democrats have been far in excess of the Republicans. The Presidency has been occupied slightly more years by Republicans than Democrats (up to and including George Bush), that changed with President Obama. Most of the time the Congress was controlled by the opposing party to the President.

The Republicans have been in control of either the Senate or the House only 22 of the past 64 years. For 10 years, they were only in control of either the House or the Senate, the other 12 years they controlled both.

From 1960 to 1968, the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House by large majority. During those years, the Presidents were also Democrats. 80% of Republicans in the House and Senate voted for the Civil Rights Act – 1964. Less than 70% of Democrats did. Minority Leader Republican Everett Dirksen led the fight to end the filibuster. Meanwhile, Democrats such as Richard Russell of Georgia and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina tried hard to sustain a filibuster. Geography was far more predictive of voting coalitions on the Civil Rights than party affiliation. In 1964, Barry Goldwater, was one of the few non-Confederate state senators to vote against the bill. He carried his home state of Arizona and swept the deep southern states. Strom Thurmond switched parties because he thought he would have a better chance of continuing segregation laws with Republicans because of Goldwater. He was wrong on both assumptions.

If history were to be used objectively, Republicans sponsored and passed the 13th Amendment banning slavery. They also wrote the 1866 Civil Rights Act. Republican support was nearly unanimous, while Democrats were unanimously opposed. Republicans James Mitchell Ashley & James F. Wilson were a pioneers in the advancement of federal protection for civil rights in the 1860’s. Democrats worked against it and helped to modify it’s implementation, especially in the south.

In fairness to the overall discussion, President Harry Truman (Democrat), attempted on more than one occasion to enact further civil rights legislation. His successor, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, gave his first State of the Union message in 1953, spoke out against specific acts of desegregation within the federal government and within the nation’s capital. In that year segregation ended in the District of Columbia’s hotels, restaurants, motion picture theaters, and Capital Housing Authority projects. Strom Thurmond (Democrat) of South Carolina made a one-man stand against 1957 Civil Rights Act, but it was passed in spite of him. Dwight Eisenhower was slow and reluctant to support civil rights but he publicly admitted the Brown v. Board of Education was the right decision, in spite of his dislike for Earl Warren, majority opinion, 1954.

Over fifty years ago, before a joint session of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson announced an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Today, many in black leadership are critical of how that war has been waged. They note the expansion of government and a strategy focused on handouts that discourage self-improvement caused more harm than help to the poor. Some of the black activists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have made a luxurious living off their grievance activities. “The disastrous effects of the government’s management of anti-poverty initiatives are recognizable across racial lines, but the destruction is particularly evident in the black community. It effectively subsidized the dissolution of the black family by rendering the black man’s role as a husband and a father irrelevant, invisible and — more specifically — disposable. The result has been several generations of blacks born into broken homes and broken communities experiencing social, moral and economic chaos. It fosters an inescapable dependency that primarily, and oftentimes solely, relies on government to sustain livelihoods.”

Lower and middle income have been severely set back due to several factors. The Democrats have much to share in the responsibility of the laws and direction set in this country, as they’ve been in control during most of the past 60+ years. The Republicans have also supported laws such as NAFTA, and deregulation of securities, finance, and investment. They (Republicans) made an attempt to reign in the careless mismanagement of Fannie MAE & Freddie MAC, but were torpedoed by several key finance committee Democrats.

Manufacturing employed many “non-professional” people prior to the 1980’s. We’ve seen a rapid decline in heavy industry such as automotive and steel as examples. It used to be said when Detroit sneezes, America catches a cold. The decline of the American automotive industry has been far reaching because of how it affects many other support industries. Detroit was run very badly under Coleman Young, who served as mayor of Detroit, Michigan from 1974 to 1994. He left the city a fiscal and social wreck, but part of that can certainly be blamed on the mismanagement of the big automakers and the quality control of the American auto-worker combined. People looked to overseas manufactures for car purchases. Even to this day, I’m inclined to buy Toyota or Honda automobiles, (although I drive a Buick).

This isn’t news to most people, but they overlook the huge impact of the decline of manufacturing and the exodus of companies as they sought manufacturing of their products in lower cost labor markets. Look at most appliances, TV’s, washers, dryers, refrigerators, small kitchen appliances, replacement auto parts, video game consoles and smart phones. That’s a lot of money and a lot of jobs which are going to other countries. Look at the trade deficit, year after year it’s not favorable to the U.S.

Meanwhile, we’ve heard about the economy is evolving to a service industry. Here’s the basic problem with that. These jobs are highly competitive, not just within the domestic market. Many services can be performed outside of the U.S. and those within have a very low entry requirement, education requirements are typically some high school or may require high school graduation. They are low skill and thus low paying jobs. People might complain about low skilled labor rates are below poverty, then again, people pay for commodities based on perceived value. That’s why people shop for low cost goods at Walmart or Target. The individual consumer isn’t willing to pay a greater cost for higher priced labor, so they shop at discount retailers or online, such as Amazon.

Here’s the problem in a nut shell which people need to learn before there’s nothing but table scraps to fight over. People’s lives are improved through expanding the pie, not figuring out the best way to divide a smaller pie. It’s growth of industry, imagining, creating, and risking time, labor and fortune, that builds a real economy. Education in the trades are needed as well. We can’t be just a nation of lawyers, doctors, programmers, investment bankers, stock brokers, entertainers, professional athletes, and politicans.

Our government has learned nothing from the failed economic policies which have diminished wages, property values and the middle class, which we see in many large cities as well as several states. Look at most of the north east, the middle part of the country such as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The federal government has forestalled the massive poverty it’s pushing all of the middle and lower income class into through it’s debt expansion. The U.S. is addicted to credit and continues to spend as if there’s no end in sight. This can’t go on indefinitely, and while we blame Republicans or Democrats, we fail to examine their policies, history and understanding of what it takes to move an economy forward.

This is a complex topic, and I suspect those who are firmly entrenched into their past college studies, and divisive party politics won’t be able to see the forest for all the trees. Here are a few films which have attempted to address the cause or the indifference while “Rome Burns”.

  • Inside Job (2010) Everyone that’s interested in a portion of this topic, should see this film. Don’t be on your phone playing games or talking while this runs, because you will miss some key points.
  • I.O.U.S.A. (2008) America’s obsession with credit and it effects on it’s future. (No wonder it wasn’t a box office hit)
  • Up In the Air (2009) Although this film is more of a personal fictitious view, it’s a realistic human portrayal of the downsizing which myself and many others were affected by.
  • The Company Men (2011) Company Men focuses on both sides of the equation: the executives doing the firing, and the employees who are downsized and suffer through long periods of joblessness. It was a box office flop. It’s not your romance, Marvel or DC Entertainment fantasy. It’s an attempt at keeping it real through varied perspectives.
  • Frontline: The Warning (PBS Documentary, 2009) before the economic meltdown, one woman tried to warn about the threat to the financial system. She failed because greed and power / control won the day. Plenty of Democrats and Republicans to blame here.

Here’s a little more history on our financial meltdown.

Additional Links

Trivia note:
Future defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld at one time was the White House’s man in charge of anti-poverty programs such as the Peace Corps.

Our Own Safety Net Broken

We’ve often heard the phrase, “social safety net”, when referring to a government backed plan to intercede with sufficient resources when an individual is unable to meet their own basic needs. The current situation on the southern border of the U.S. shows how ineffective our government has become at meeting the needs of its own security. While politics is fully on display in Washington, concerns over the health care of our veterans, mismanagement of the IRS, (a group soon to be fully responsible for rendering penalties against non-compliant citizens who fail to purchase government mandated health insurance), and now on the media radar is a problem long in the making, failure to secure our borders.

Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly claims: Crisis on our southern border threatens U.S. existence.  “The ongoing border crisis is much more than just a flood of illegal immigrants searching for amnesty and a better life.  It is a crisis that is threatening America’s national security, and even it’s very existence as we know it, as deadly diseases, drugs, weapons, even terrorists are being smuggled into the country, with doctors and agents being threatened to stay silent about it.”

It’s time for anagnorisis (moment of realization and discovery).  As citizens we need to understand all the political rancor and rhetoric won’t solve any problem. What we’re witnessing on the border is nothing short of a full-scale invasion. Any country that can’t or won’t defend its borders is in serious jeopardy. We may see thousands of children pour in, but beyond those innocent faces hides a far greater problem. Uncontrolled spreading of disease and a significant gang / criminal influx. Yes, it’s a humanitarian crisis but it has been brought about through inaction. (see link for details)

July 9, 2014 Obama campaigns in Austin, TX

July 9, 2014 Obama campaigns in Austin, TX

President Obama has been an effective campaigner and has used his office to point a scolding finger at Republicans in the House of Representatives. When that wasn’t sufficient, he chose to blame his predecessor for any big problem that has come his way. The economy wasn’t his fault, and neither is the immigration crisis. As far as he’s concerned, he’s done everything in his power to correct the inequities in health care and has continued to campaign for immigration reform. In a recent campaign visit to Austin Texas the President said, “Sometimes I feel like saying to these guys, ‘I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy,'” “What I’ve said to my team is ‘get me out of Washington,’” the president told donors at the event. He said he wanted to talk to people who are doing the right thing and struggling so they know they are being heard. Meanwhile, minutes away by helicopter (less than 200 miles), the aggregate border crisis has become larger than the invasion on D-day in Normandy. Obama has resisted calls for him to see the crisis up close, saying he has no plan to visit the border. He had time to go raise funds for November political campaigns, just not going to get his feet near the Rio Grande.

What has the President done to rectify the illegal immigration problem? In 2012 he signed an executive order to halt deportations of people brought to the United States illegally as children (age 16) before July 2007. What effect did that have on the current crisis? It set the precedent, get your kids in and then the adults will likely be given amnesty as well to take care of their children, thus the surge.

Allocation of funds requested by President

Allocation of funds requested by President

Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in supplemental funding, half of which he has said would help Customs and Border Patrol deal with the humanitarian crisis of thousands of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. illegally every week. Only about 3 per cent, however, would be dedicated to strengthening America’s southwest border with Mexico.

He has, however, asked for a larger, more permanent overhaul of U.S. immigration law that would give most otherwise law-abiding illegal aliens a path to legal status – and, for some, a path to citizenship.

House Republicans, it’s your move. Tired of being blamed? Then meet with your colleagues and get a bill moved through which responds to the basic needs of both parties. This is called compromise and that’s how things get done, it’s not all or nothing.

OP Ed in New Your Times
Break the Immigration Impasse
July 10, 2014
Read by clicking on the above underlined link.
Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett & Bill Gates on Immigration Reform

“Our illegal population alone exceeds all the Irish, Jewish and British immigrants who came. Each year, we catch more people breaking in at the border than all the Swedes and Norwegians who came to America in 200 years. Half a million illegal aliens succeed in breaking in every year, more than all the Greeks or Poles who came legally from [our 1776] Revolution to 1960..” – Patrick J. Buchanan

Tell your Congressman the time to act is now!

What we need to do in the mean time is urgent and fundamental.

  1. Deport all of these new illegal immigrants.
  2. Secure the border by sending enough personnel. It’s time for a little Homeland Security.
  3. Stop all aid to governments that export their people.
  4. Pass immigration reform to deal with the current crisis as well as law-abiding established immigrants & advanced educated graduates who wish to stay in this country.

Related Link
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, a seemingly endless surge of immigrants