President George Bush, the Pentagon, Congress, Veterans Administration and the American people know that the health care system for veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is broken into thousands of pieces. The urgency required to pressure Congress to crack the whip to fix the system appears fading. Despite the president's promise to veterans several weeks ago during a visit to Walter Reed Hospital to correct the problem, the problems are mounting, the anger keeps boiling and the calls keep coming.
I am told there are three areas of rehabilitation challenging the health care system for our veterans: physical rehabilitation (prosthetics), cognitive (including mental health) and sensory.
On the surface, veterans appear to receive better care when it comes to providing them with physical rehabilitation, rather than receiving treatment for cognitive and sensory disabilities. Still the quality care, according to veterans and family members I have spoken to, for physical rehabilitation also is not where it could be, especially when veterans leave major metropolitan area that have better VA hospitals and better trained staff.
In the last three weeks, as I have for nearly three years, I have received calls from people looking for information on assistive technology products in the low vision, hard-of-hearing, cognitive and speech areas. Veterans and their families are still complaining that the therapists and counselors they are working with lack information on the assistive technology products they think they need. The seekers want action. They want their lives back. Veterans, men and women with disabilities, believe AT products can help them feel "whole again."
People, who contacted the organizations that I suggested, called me and thanked me for my assistance.
The wars in the Middle East are increasing the numbers of people with disabilities here and there. The VA, Pentagon, DOD and agencies working with veterans with disabilities need help. ATIA and national and local organizations working on behalf of people with disabilities should offer their expertise in the areas of assistive technology, counseling and employment. Congress should appropriated money to pay for this expertise.
The Pentagon, DOD, VA should also set up an international database on AT manufacturers and market it. Does anyone want to give odds on whether these agencies can afford it? We owe it also to people in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting with us to guarantee they have access to information on AT products.
It is important that the country give our veterans the best treatment so they can feel whole again. We need to make access happen now and not years and maybe decades from now.