We already have socialized medicine in the US — just ask a veteran

Department of Veterans Affairs

Given the situation with the increasing number of Veterans Health Administration facilities being listed as having “problems,” it isn’t surprising that talk has started about the VA system showing what the future holds for all Americans under ObamaCare. It’s an accurate assessment that has already been said, and should be repeated often.

It is the pure definition of rationed care and gives an honest view of what health care looks like when the government has complete control. The headlines are focusing on relatively recent cases, with veterans waiting months or occasionally years for needed treatment. Family members of veterans that died waiting for treatment are being featured on the news.

Politicians are calling for heads to roll, including a lukewarm claim from Obama himself that “something” will be done. Given the track record of this administration when it comes to accountability, that’s not very likely. Congress is introducing a bill that will supposedly make it easier to dismiss less-than-stellar administrators. One thing that isn’t being mentioned often is the fact that this isn’t a new problem.

Before Kiefer Sutherland had several really bad days on the small screen, he was on the silver screen as a doctor in the VA system. Hollywood depicted what we’re seeing today back in 1992, in the film Article 99. Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember it. It wasn’t a particularly good film, and probably only caught the interest of veterans and military personnel anyway. Poor scripting and acting aside, it did show how rampant bureaucracy is the quickest way to cripple a medical facility.

While it would be nice to think that these deficiencies in medical services to veterans started in the 1990’s, the fact is it dates much farther back than that. Of course there were the issues with the government denying treatment for exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. However, there is at least a little proof that these issues date at least all the way back to the treatment of the members of the Greatest Generation — World War II veterans.

Consider for a moment the case of a man that had to jump from a plane over Germany to save his life. Imagine a parachute malfunction that caused him to end up with a broken hip before he landed. After being held prisoner for over a year, without medical treatment for his injuries, he returns home to find out that the government does not recognize those injuries because he had no medical records to prove they were related to his service time.

David Allen RohmDavid Allen Rohm was 21 years old when he was captured by the Germans, and was denied medical services for the physical injuries he suffered from jumping out of a plane. At least the VA system helped him with the life-long nightmares he had from his 14 months in captivity. He paid for the treatments he needed to at least lessen the pain from his improperly healed broken hip with his own money, because the VA insisted that he needed to provide x-rays of his injuries from when they occurred.

Of course, there was no way that he could have done that, even if the Germans that captured him happened to house him in a medical facility. No, there weren’t x-ray machines in any of the barns on the German countryside where he and his fellow prisoners were forced to sleep on the ground.

That is bureaucratic logic, which continues to control the VA to this day. The problem today is that there is a huge backlog of patients needing care. Instead of attempting to increase the number of personnel to manage the load — even with more interns — the VA’s solution is to get rid of the paper trail proving that there was a backlog in the first place. It’s no better than what happened to Rohm, with the VA requesting medical proof that they had to have known he couldn’t possibly provide.

Military bureaucracy goes hand in hand with governmental bureaucracy especially in Rohm’s case. Since the VA system wouldn’t recognize that his broken hip was a war-related injury, neither did the Department of the Army. After a few years of fighting, Rohm finally got his Purple Heart almost 65 years to the day after he was shot down over Germany. He died a little over a year later.

The bureaucratic nightmare that veterans face just to get the care that they were promised when they chose to serve has been building on itself for generations. It is likely that we will find out that the problems making headlines now are barely scratching the surface.

The reason why the public hasn’t been painfully aware of all of this all along is the fact that this system was made to serve former members of the military. There is honor there, and it is not honorable to publicly complain, at least in the minds of many veterans. Their horror stories have been circulated for years in social halls of veterans’ organizations — fit only for the ears of other veterans.

What the public has seen so far is what Americans can expect within the next five years if ObamaCare isn’t repealed, or so significantly changed that it no longer even resembles the original legislation. If the public ends up seeing the true depth and breadth of the problems within the VA system, they will see the reality of a true single-payer system. It doesn’t look remotely similar to the Cuban “medical tourist” version of socialized medicine that liberals cling to as reality because Michael Moore told them so.

If the people, and the politicians really want to know the truth about the future of medicine in America, they need to talk to the veterans. They can’t just accept the “fit for civilian ears” replies either. It’s hard to hear talk about the system denying anyone anything for weeks, or months. Unfortunately, it’s possible to measure wait times in decades - if David Allen Rohm was still alive, he could tell everyone all about that.

*Credit for photo of David Rohm goes to the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania

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