Returning vets deserve better than this fiasco

Imagine returning home after serving your country in a combat zone. You have suffered debilitating injuries — some physical, others mental — and you’re trying to adjust to life outside the uniform.
Jan 23, 2014

Finding a job has been tough — after all, loud noises make you duck for cover, and you can’t stand on your feet for long because of injuries from too many parachute jumps. You go to your local VA clinic — some of them hundreds of miles away, depending on where you live. They diagnose you, get you some meds and send you on your way.

But then the bills start piling up. You still can’t find a job given your various ailments.

So, you apply for disability benefits through the Veterans Administration.

And wait. A week goes by, then a month, then six months.

You call. Several times. Each time you get someone different who tells you to send in a different form, to a different place. They tell you they didn’t receive the last forms you sent or they can’t find your medical records. They ask you to send them in again, to a different place.

You call back. You’re more desperate now. "Oh," the VA employee says, "we got one of the forms, but now we need you to send in a different form."

It’s frustrating and has been a years-long process for some vets. Many give up.

VA officials have acknowledged that “the ball was dropped,” and have vowed, for years now, to reduce the wait time and make it easier for vets to apply for the benefits that are rightly theirs to claim.

The VA now has a new computer system that may help eliminate delays and reduce some of the "disappearing document" problems that stall valid disability applications.

By 2015, VA officials are promising to process all claims within 125 days.

That’s not soon enough, but the VA is at least marching in the right direction.

Our legislators need to continue putting pressure on the VA to get this mission completed. Because no man or woman who has served our country should ever be left behind.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.





Sloppy uniform, incorrect couldn't find a photo of a real soldier? When I got out of the air force with back pain I was treated like a criminal for even mentioning it...years later after giving up my doctor found a cyst the size of a golf ball in my back...I guess I faked it into existence. The VA is a joke nad should be abolished for something that works ran by people who care.


When I lost my job, I applied to the VA for healthcare. Altho I didn't care for the travel times for certain procedures, I got good healthcare.....better in areas that my previous AND current insurance does not cover.
The VA may not be perfect, but it compares favorably with most insurance plans provided by employers...if not BETTER than those plans...and I paid a lot less than I do now. If I had any sense, I'd go back to the VA and drop my employers health care. The only reason I don't is concern about emergencies.


Regardless of the failure of the file picture, the underlying problem is the failure in care for Veterans of any war.

The Commander-in-Chief is quick enough to deploy our forces, putting them in harms way.

Their return also needs to managed and cared for in a way that ensures a healthy future for these people who have endured situations that we "normal" people will never see (hopefully!).


I’ve been there and done that along with several of my friends and I have to report despite some who say the VA health care system is just dandy our experiences were not that at all.
One guy needed allergenic gowns and sheets and they said they have to save them for "really" allergic people, he laid there with hives all over his body and we bought him some when we found out and then they wouldn’t wash them. Another guy had such a bad infection from neglect of his catheter they nearly amputated his penis and this is how we say Thanks! NO THANKS...better to die in the field of battle or at home than mired in red tape and apathy, sure there are the few that care but they can’t seem to change a flawed system.

Former Grandhavenite

Politicians are quick to beat their chests and act tough when it comes to starting wars. What they aren't willing to do is the hard work of ensuring that there are adequate resources available for returning vets. The reason for the failures of the VA health system is simply a lack of resources. When you try to do something on a shoestring that pretty much guarantees doing it wrong. The politicians need to keep the cost of wars artificially low in the minds of the public, since it would be a lot harder to send our military on some ridiculous misadventure to secure the profits of an oil company if the public was more aware of the true cost.


Wondering what the recruiters would say to a young person bringing in a copy of this article? Do stories like this affect their quotas?


I encourage all those who have an opinion on this issue read the book," Thank you for your service" by David Finkel

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