High-quality health care is a human right for our service members and veterans

High-quality health care is a human right for our service members and veterans
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The more we look around in our world today, the more problems we tend to notice. We all have opinions that contribute to a greater and more diverse outlook on different issues. This can either lead to positive contributions, contributions that are optimal but are still in need of continued improvements, or a complete revisit of what we are doing and how we are accomplishing. 

High-quality health care should not be a difficult service to provide. In recent years we have seen average outcomes and less than average outcomes. We have seen good outcomes. We strive for the majority to receive positive outcomes.

Why has this become such a difficult task? Major factors relate to lack of user engagement and a failure to define problems in advance so that we can solve for them.

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Our service members and veterans are exposed to some of the most toxic and hazardous conditions compared to those who do not serve in our military. Government contractors are also a part of the equation, where they are deployed to locations being exposed to these very same conditions.

As they experience symptoms and illnesses while deployed, active duty physicians and medical teams are fully prepared and trained to solve the most complex problems.

While the 99 percent of the population do not see these teams at work, and the outstanding work they do around the clock, recognizing them for their service to our nation is often times neglected. These teams need more recognition for what they do, as they do serve on the front lines of the battlefields. 

When they return home, these medical professionals are fully equipped to deal with any type of emergency. Their knowledge base and training, and experiences while deployed has created varying definitions of medicine unlike any other place they have been. Medicine is not just working in specialties. 

Medicine is emergency based, medicine is saving those who present with loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, and working together as a team to rehab all who serve into a more productive life.

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The future of our wounded warriors depends upon how situations are managed through timely decisions. This high-quality care approach for service members and veterans needs to be transferred into the civilian workforce, at VA and in the private sector hospitals.

For example, in Michigan, State Representative Diana Farrington introduced a bill that would allow military medical personnel to work under the supervision of a licensed physician. Military members who were honorably discharged and transitioning into civilian life will be able to utilize the skills they learned during their service to obtain gainful employment. Our federal government leaders at VA and DoD along with Congress need to follow suit with similar ideas.  

While physicians who do not serve in the military continue to work stateside and care those in our nation, they equally work to achieve positive outcomes. 

As in any occupation, not all physicians are good physicians, not all police officers are good police officers, not all leaders are good leaders, and not all people mean well in their respective professions. Medical team outcomes can be monitored as best as possible, but the possibility of preventing all bad medical outcomes is like preventing an earthquake or tornado from happening.

The overarching question is: How do we create a balance and work together? The answer is listening, engaging in critical conversations, learning from one another, and making the right decisions that will put us in a better position now and in the future. 

Health care is a human right. Everyone should be entitled to health care. That includes our service members and veterans. Service members and veterans with dishonorable discharges and other than honorable discharges are excluded from receiving most VA health-care services. We need to put this behind us. Every service member and veteran are deserving of high-quality health care.  

Many of us understand the idea of people making mistakes and wishing they could go back. Many of us understand training does not always equate to real life situations, and efforts in the battlefield can go wrong. Many of us understand that small issues can lead to significant and improper judicial sentences. 

We are not perfect as a population. Regardless of the imperfections and wrongdoings, it’s time to reverse course and allow all service members and veterans access to VA and VA community care. This may also make a positive impact on reducing our suicide rates. 

VA needs to up their game to recruit and retain world-class physicians and medical teams. How can they do this? Create better incentives to hire prior service physicians and other medical professionals. As frequently stated by VA leaders, there is nothing like a veteran receiving medical care from another veteran, because a gap is reduced leading to a better understanding of experiences and culture. Can this improve the VA model of high-quality health care delivery? The potential is significant.  

Another option is to allow veterans to receive health care at any military installation. This keeps medical care in the government rather than outsourcing to the private sector, and allows for competition to become more alive.

If service members and veterans tend to use one health-care facility more than another in the same area, that’s when we can say problems exist and something needs to be done. Otherwise, we will continue down the road of status quo and allow poor outcomes and leadership decisions not in the best interest of others to occur.  

Is the current pay scale at VA comparable to the private sector? Not even close. Taking this step to recognize pay gaps in the private sector versus the government for physicians and medical professionals in the near future can show our service members and veterans that we care about providing high-quality health care. 

Sometimes it’s about whom you hire, and not how many you hire. It’s about overcoming the intimidation gap when your leader sees you have more experience and better skills than they do, and realizing what they can do for your team and their patients. It’s about realizing we need to make change, and make change despite being bureaucratic. 

VA can and needs to do more, and so does the current executive office of the president. Until then, the public will continue to be exposed to the same rhetoric and ask themselves why they can’t get the record straight after years of attempts and several Secretaries later.  

Andrew Vernon was a career employee at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for seven years  and is a veteran of the U.S. army.  Vernon is president & CEO of Andrew Vernon & Associates LLC, a company dedicated toward a new 21st century model of serving service members, veterans and their families. He holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in health Administration from the Columbia University Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health.