With all the money America spends on its military, one would assume a fraction of that cost could be devoted to giving our veterans health care. You'd be right: a very, very small fraction.
As Jon Stewart covered on Monday night's The Daily Show, health care programs for Veterans Affairs are in dire shape. Even bipartisan Congressional efforts to fix them are being underfunded. The tragedy of this is made ironic when one remembers how much money is spent on these men and women while they're fighting, only to be forgotten the second the war is over.
Stewart first addressed the alleged lies Veterans Affairs officials told about wait times at Los Angeles hospitals for vets. Said to be just four days, wait times were actually 44. But luckily, Congress has come to the rescue with the Veterans Choice program, which was created to give retired members of the military more access by letting them go outside VA facilities to receive care under coverage.
"Sounds like a spectacular program!" Stewart exclaimed. "What could go wrong?"
In short: a lot. The program has arbitrary restrictions on how far away from a VA facility you must live for coverage to apply. One must live 40 miles away or have a 30-day wait time for care. Not only that, but while $10 billion sounds like a great start for a program, Congress originally allotted $50 billion to the program but added in those restrictions to slash costs.
Stewart's making a point that leads to an even greater one: lack of oversight. Theoretically, these programs are good, but they're reduced financially by Congress and given arcane, disadvantageous requirements preventing veterans from receiving care. In other words, the program is doing exactly the opposite of what it was designed to do.
Oversight isn't sexy. Follow-up is a bore. Saying Congress has signed the Veterans Choice program in a bipartisan effort sounds great and gives good PR. But without making sure the program gets implemented properly, it's not so much a program as it is a waste of ink.
Watch the full clip below.