The Spectacle Blog

RE: The VA and Health Care Policy

By on 3.6.07 | 6:13PM

John Goodman comments on a new article by McClatchy Newspapers examining the Veterans Administration. The article notes that the problem had its roots in the 1990s:

Because specialized mental health spending inched up after 1996, the VA could report to Congress every year that it was maintaining the capacity of its mental health services.

[The VA's] committee of experts, however, said that specialized mental health services were declining and that the VA's use of unadjusted dollars in an era of high inflation in medical costs rendered its annual reports "meaningless."

At the same time, the VA began treating many more people for mental health ailments, so the amount spent has plummeted from $3,560 per veteran in 1995 to $2,581 per veteran in 2004 - even before correcting for inflation. (Overall, mental health spending during that period went from $2.01 billion to $2.19 billion.)

And:

VA experts said the system already was straining to provide veterans with what they needed before the United States attacked Afghanistan in October 2001. "Even before the war in Afghanistan," Matthew Friedman, a top VA mental health official, told Congress in 2004, "VA PTSD treatment capacity had been overtaxed."

So, the VA makes it look like it is spending more on mental health by using numbers that aren't adjusted for inflation and, apparently, neglecting to point out that it was treating more people for psychological problems. That's government-run health care for you.

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