VA investigator: Vets needlessly put at risk | June 24
Private care to face same strains
Now that the Department of Veterans Affairs has accepted the fact that it cannot handle the large numbers of veterans seeking care in VA hospitals, at least in a timely manner, officials are frantically trying to pass legislation that will allow veterans to seek care in the community that will be paid for by the government.
Such legislation is not strictly necessary as it has always been legal to farm out medical and dental treatment for eligible veterans. However, the administrators were afraid that would reflect badly on their perceived ability to meet performance standards and interfere with their ability to obtain bonuses. Now that bonuses are no longer attached to performance standards, that should no longer be a problem.
Now stand by for the next predictable dilemma. Veterans' organizations are concerned, and rightly so, that community doctors will have a difficult time handling the large veteran influx into their current practices. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide non-VA medical care to any enrolled veteran who cannot get a VA medical appointment within 30 days, or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility, at a stunning $54 billion annually.
The number of veterans who fit into those categories is staggering; consequently, the guarantee that their appointment times will be shortened in the community is questionable at best. Waiting times in the community, particularly for specialty care, are in many cases as long if not longer than VA waiting times. Although I agree that the veterans should be given a choice, it is a no-brainer that the ability to treat more veterans in the VA system by building more facilities and hiring more health care providers has to be an integral part of the solution.
Capt. Frank Kepley, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Sun City Center
Emergency kit ready? | June 25
Don't put off preparations
A new survey finds that 92 percent of Americans have lived through a disaster and 7 percent say they or someone in their family was injured when a disaster impacted their community. Yet 90 percent of those surveyed have not practiced an evacuation plan; 64 percent have not created an inventory of the belongings in their home; and 30 percent would take their chances and ignore evacuation orders in the face of an imminent natural disaster.
For those who live in hurricane-prone areas like Florida, take time now to ensure you are prepared. Develop an evacuation plan that includes escape routes and meeting locations. Make sure you have an emergency kit ready to grab and go. Create a home inventory using a video or still camera to document your belongings. Also, you may have multiple insurance policies (car, boat, home, wind) with a variety of insurance carriers, so it is important to gather all insurance information so you can report claims to the appropriate carrier.
Taking these simple steps now can go a long way to help keep your family safe and help make a smoother, speedier recovery if disaster does strike.
Michael Lia, Tampa
A better way on taxation
Our tax system is a monumental mess and often results in favored treatment for the few. The tax code is incomprehensible to ordinary people, and every attempt to "fix" or "simplify" it has made it worse.
A proposal currently in Congress is called the Fair Tax (HR 25 and S. 122). Not to be confused with the flat tax or value-added tax, this is a national consumption tax that completely replaces the federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, etc., and eliminates the IRS. It is made "fair" by sending monthly, to every taxpayer with a valid Social Security card, a "prebate" check that covers the tax on essential goods and services up to the cutoff for the poverty level.
This major change is being fought by many with vested interests, but a grass-roots effort is underway to make it happen. Once you understand this tax, you will agree it's a good thing for America.
Leslie A. Rubin, Clearwater
'Conflict' turns to 'War' on Fla. license tags June 20
Important issue spotlighted
I want to thank the Times for the article on the Korean War license plate. As the Senate sponsor of that legislation, along with my colleague Rep. Larry Metz, I am proud the state of Florida will now be properly honoring those veterans who defended our freedom in Korea and Vietnam. As a veteran myself, I appreciate and understand how important it is this war be recognized as such.
I am grateful to Metz for his work on this important legislation and I am grateful to Gov. Rick Scott for signing this bill into law. Thank you again for bringing this important topic to the forefront; it was my honor to sponsor this bill.
State Sen. Charlie Dean, District 5, Inverness
'Box' ban seeks to help felons | June 22
Giving a second chance
This article was a pleasant surprise. Almost everyone knows someone who has been involved in a drug charge or nonviolent crime who has suffered severe employment obstacles. Discrimination of this magnitude, involving 70 million U.S. adults, is not only abhorrent but an economic disaster.
This is an area where both parties can come together to pass laws protecting adults who have repaid their debt to society to seek employment and become productive citizens.
Of course, jobs that require security or safety requirements would be exempt from this law. Americans should embrace giving U.S. citizens a second chance, especially if the ex-offenders poses no threat to society.
Marie Barba, Treasure Island
Lies, damn lies and Dick Cheney and Cheney's terrorist claim true | June 22-23
Lies and hard truths
I am not a great fan of Daniel Ruth or Dick Cheney (although I find them both entertaining). But I find it interesting that the day after Ruth's column about how Cheney has been "always wrong," the Times prints the PunditFact article stating Cheney was "true" regarding his claim that terrorism has expanded during the Obama administration.
Maybe we are safer with the hawks guarding the henhouse than we are with the comedians.
Terry R. Arnold, St. Petersburg