The troubled Department of Veterans Affairs has been in the news regarding the fake waiting list situation at VA hospitals. Today, however, the news came out that they actually give sleep apnea sufferers a higher priority than soldiers returning with missing limbs. USA Today reported Friday that amputees have to wait in line for medical care behind veterans who have sleep apnea. This is just one symptom of a system that is in much need of total overhaul.
In addition, the VA awards a higher level of disability to someone who requires a C-Pap or Bi-Pap machine than someone who may have had their leg blown off by an IED in Afghanistan or Iraq. While sleep apnea is a serious condition that can be very detrimental or even fatal if untreated, these veterans who require a machine to provide continuous positive airway pressure while sleeping are receiving a disability designation of 50% and amputees are classed at only 40% disability. The difference in wait time and monthly monetary compensation is significant. This lower classification puts them in a different category called Priority Group 2.
The difference in monthly compensation between the two classifications for a single veteran with no dependents is $244.61, not figuring in a stipend given to all those who have lost limbs of $101 a month. (Our soldiers have lost limbs but are not given enough stipends to even pay their cable bill each month!) The assumption is that a returning soldier should be able to get prosthesis and go back to a normal life. Apparently the assumption is that if someone requires a machine to sleep at night, they are more helpless than an amputee?
The overall medical care given to our returning veterans has been shabby at best. As news of various disgraceful situations around the country has been brought to light, the drumbeat has increased for the resignation of the Secretary of U.S. Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki. Reuters reports on Friday that President Obama has accepted his resignation. He agreed with Shinseki that there was just not time for distractions. The problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs need to be fixed immediately.