Military / Politics · February 14, 2007

Cutting Veteran Health Benefits

I’ve already spoken my disgust at Bush’s proposed cuts for Veterans health care. But a story in today’s Fresno Bee about a returning Iraqi Vet puts the Bush stupidity into a brighter spotlight.

From the article, “Glad to be Alive“:

After he was shot eight times and blown out of four different vehicles by roadside bombs, San Joaquin native Army Spc. Francisco Rosas started to think he might not survive his tour in Iraq.

But this time it’s different, and it’s clear that Francisco Rosas’ recovery will be long and painful.

The top of his Kevlar helmet is deeply grooved by a bullet that knocked him unconscious, and his foot bears a deep purple scar from the roadside bomb that exploded directly under his armored vehicle.

That lingering injury leaves him in constant pain, and he still faces the possibility that doctors might have to amputate the foot.

Even after nearly two years, his hands shake and nightmares sometimes force him to sleep alone on a couch so that when he lashes out in the night he won’t harm his wife.

He can’t chase his 2-year-old daughter as she plays, and his hands shake from post-traumatic stress.

As he talks about these things, there are times when his voice fails him. But then Rosas smiles and talks about how much worse his life could be.

“I look at myself and say, ‘I’m pretty lucky.’ I saw a lot of other soldiers that were burned or lost their legs or arms. I’m lucky.”

Rosas spent 18 months in various hospitals, with Lucy usually nearby. A month ago, he was given the choice to stay at an Army hospital in San Antonio or return to San Joaquin and travel to the veterans hospital in Fresno for treatment. Rosas chose to come home.

His choice was to stay in San Antonio or travel to the Fresno Veterans hospital. Speaking from experience, the hospital in San Antonio is MUCH better than the one here in Fresno – that’s because San Antonio is a hub of military bases including the huge Air Force bases, Lackland and Randolph. (I went through basic training at Lackland AFB.)

If Rosas has complications that need special treatment he will have to either choose a civilian doctor (that will require money out of his pocket, even as a veteran) or he will be required to travel to a large VA hospital that can help him. There is a nice one at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas NV. I understand there is another facility in San Diego.

And what rates as ‘special treatment’? Any surgery that isn’t minor, any dental work, access to specialists like doctors who are familiar with the problems of amputation patients. Access to high quality psychologists familiar with Post Traumatic Stress. Don’t get me wrong, you can find all of that here in Fresno, but the military won’t pay the full cost of civilian doctors for Veterans. Heck, they didn’t pay the full cost of civilian doctors for those of us on Active Duty, even though we were treated much better than the Vets.