Granted when I first got out of the service I didn't seek medical benefits from the VA because I had a family and needed family coverage. So I sought out and obtained commercial insurance, but about ten years ago as situations had changed I tried to get benefits. It was like pulling teeth. The DAV, VA and other agencies did everything to discourage me from even trying.
Their attitude seemed to be that because I was not an 'in country' vet I was just looking for an entitlement. This was a most hypocritical attitude since most of the agents were about my age, Vietnam Era Veterans like me, and probably Vietnam Combat Veterans.
I say hypocritical because the attitude that they displayed towards me was very similar to the one that WWII and Korean Vets at the VFW, American Legion, and the VA inflicted on Vietnam Era Vets when they got out of the service. An attitude of disdain, of shame, because they (the Vietnam Vets) didn't win their war... or theirs wasn't a real war... or they were all 'dope heads' looking for drugs (through the VA Hospitals).
When reading about homeless Veterans I can't help but wonder if negative attitudes like these, from their own VA, have not contributed to their situation, especially the older Vietnam Era Vets. I have known many Veterans, myself included, who have at one time or another swore they would never set foot back into a VA facility.
I am no stranger to the VA. I spent over 15 years chauffeuring and accompanying my father to his VA medical appointments and benefit hearings. I had seen the 'entitlement' attitude directed towards aged Vets by young hospital staff and clerks who saw these Veterans as freeloaders who were getting 'free' medical care while most of them couldn't afford or had to pay for their medical insurance.
Most were too young and uninformed to realize that a price had been paid for those benefits. A price paid by my father who was awarded 3 Purple Hearts for his wounds received in Korea. The price his best friend, John Pittman, paid when he threw himself on a hand grenade to save their squad. For the two of them, between the two of them, 4 Purple Hearts, 40 years of service, and the Congressional Medal of Honor still couldn't get either of them 100% Veteran Disability.
I am not disparaging all workers at the VA, but many who've worked there will tell you the same. I know there are many conscientious and hard working people who care are there. And yes, things have definitely improved over the last 20 years, but the recent scandalous waiting times at VA hospitals are not an overnight occurrence. Those problems are long term and have existed for years before reaching their current newsworthiness.
Its unfortunate that the country, WWII, and Korean Vets dumped on Vietnam Vets, that Vietnam 'in country' Vets dump on Vietnam 'non-combat' Vets, and that our public is unaware of the difference between an entitlement given freely and a benefit earned and paid for.
It should be noted that ALL Veterans; combat, non-combat, volunteer or draftee all signed on the same dotted line "....a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to including their life."
ps. I do not yet know what my benefit eligibility will be as I was unofficially told I qualified. The irony is that in the beginning all I really wanted was a VA I.D. card, but now, hopefully I will at least be able to get my medicines from the VA. That alone will be a big financial relief.
update: “Effective 2015, VA eliminated the use of net worth as a determining factor for both health care programs and co-payment responsibilities. This change makes VA health care benefits more accessible to lower-income Veterans and brings VA policies in line with Secretary Bob McDonald’s MyVA initiative which reorients VA around Veterans’ needs.”
“Many vets have to submit a means test to be enrolled, but it's not required for combat vets, who are automatically eligible for five years of free care.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/veterans-denied-health-care-computer-glitch_55c4cc45e4b0923c12bc8d04?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013§ion=politics