WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the end of the Veteran Services’ Washington, D.C. trip in May, Joseph Wade Miller, Chief of Staff for Congressman Chip Roy, spoke to the gathered veterans about his service and problems veterans might have with securing their benefits.
“I am a conservative right-winger, but veterans issues are bipartisan issues and it is something that there is, thankfully, a lot of consensus on how we take care of veteran’s, how do we move the ball forward, how do we improve healthcare, and how do we improve the services and benefits,” he said. “In my experience, on Capitol Hill, one of the true part spots are the Veteran Service Officers (VSO) who help veterans navigate problems in the VA.”
He also talked about being a patient at the VA and the “bureaucracy” he experienced and the problems with resource and allocation.
“Fortunately, for the veterans that are coming out now, it is a little more streamlined and quicker. When I went through it, it was years of waiting to get your ratings back. Let’s say if you wanted to see a dermatologist, you would have to set an appointment with your primary care doctor, you would have to wait a couple of months to have that appointment, then you would go there and wait for three or four hours in the waiting room — sometimes shorter, you would get seen and then she would refer you to a dermatologist and you would have to wait two or three months to go to that. You may have a mole that needs to get checked out, and in that instance, days matter,” he said.
“Those are the types of issues we are kind of still dealing with and we’re trying to figure out where there is agreement on how we can fix these things. Like veteran’s choice programs, which we are trying to push out there to give veteran’s more options. Part of the difficulty of that is, the first iteration of anything is an idea, so we are going through second, third, and fourth iterations and revisions on how we make that better. How we do that while making sure we have a robust, strong VA Center.
“There are all sorts of things out there for veteran’s. I think, selfishly, I’m a little biased, but I think once a veteran has served, they need to be taken care of to the degree possible within our means. Especially if they incurred injuries in service or training, that is a priority. To the degree we can help them after, whether that is prioritization in federal hiring. There are all sorts of things we can look at and try to tweak and make sure this country is recognizing the service of veterans. We want to make sure veterans are prioritized when it comes to these types of benefits within our means.
“The big problem I see, as a veteran, is we are often used as a shield to get everything else done. All sorts of spending and programs – by the way, this is also a bipartisan problem. If we don’t bust the spending caps this year, we are going to have trillion dollar deficits. The excuse for it is, we have to fund the military and veterans. They use that as an excuse to say we have to blow spending out of the water on everything else.
“We have to figure out how to pay for guns and butter. Right now, the argument is, we have to pay for guns and therefore we’re going to spend a bunch of money on butter. There are a lot of important stuff in butter that we definitely have to fund: medicare, social security, and some education. We are used as a shield! Veterans need to speak out and make their voices heard and say, ‘We do need to take care of the veterans community, but don’t use me as an excuse for why my grandson is going to be saddled with a trillion plus dollars a year in debt, because you all in Congress won’t make tough decisions.’
“Speak up. They need the veteran community to stand up and support them when you think they’re doing the right thing. It goes the other way. If you think they’re doing the wrong thing, you need to speak up and tell them enough is enough. We get that on both sides of the spectrum, because veterans are not a monolithic groups, they cover the full political spectrum. We get calls from veterans on both sides.
“The problem is, members of Congress aren’t having those difficult conversations. We need to have an outside voice, stand up, give our elected officials some clarity on what we expect them to do with our dollars and how they can help us.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH