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Military

John Blankenship: Who Benefits from $170 Billion Veterans Administration Budget?

President Barack Obama has proposed a $168.8 billion budget for the Veterans Administration Administration in fiscal year 2016. With 9.4 million enrollees, the VA health-care system is one of the largest in the country.

According to VA documents, the proposed VA budget includes $73.5 billion in discretionary funding, largely for health care. Another $95.3 billion is slated for mandatory benefit programs, such as disability compensation and pensions.

Other services for veterans:

» $266 million to administer the VA-run system of 133 national cemeteries

» $4.1 billion for information technology, including modernizing veterans’ electronic health records and improving veterans’ access to benefits

» $1.7 billion in construction, extended care grants to include nine Veterans Health Administration construction projects and four gravesite expansion projects

This funding will provide:

» Disability compensation benefits for 4.3 million veterans and 400,000 survivors

» Pension benefits program for 306,000 veterans and 216,000 survivors

» The 10th-largest life insurance program, covering both active-duty service members and enrolled veterans

» An education assistance program serving nearly 1.2 million students

» Vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits for more than 137,000 veterans

» A home mortgage program with more than 2 million active loans guaranteed by the VA

» The largest national cemetery system, with projections to inter 130,000 veterans and family members in 2016

As of Sept. 30, 2014, there were an estimated 22 million veterans living in the United States and its territories. In addition to these veterans, an additional 25.7 million family members and dependents are eligible for benefits from the VA.

Let’s break down some of this.

Veterans Administration medical care will cost taxpayers $63,200,000,000 in the coming year:

» 9.4 million — This is the VA number of enrollees in the VA health-care system

» $6,723 — Taxpayer cost per veteran for medical care

» $168,800,000,000 — Total VA budget

» 22,000,000 — Estimated number of veterans living in the United States

» $7,673 — VA budget spending per veteran

Most of the 22 million veterans do not use the VA; I did not use the VA medical care for decades. This is a lot of money for medical care ranging from veterans in their early 20s to centenarians.

I know a veteran who is a medical doctor who completed his internship and residency in the VA system. He suggests that veterans just be given ID cards and let them go wherever they want. By eliminating the medical-care sector of the VA, taxpayers will save money and the veterans will get more responsive care. Then work on one or more of the other parts of the VA.

Who benefits most? Ask a vet who enrolled in VA medical care. Or ask a vet who has a pending or completed claim with the VA.

The following illustrative charts are courtesy of the VA:

Chart Guide

GOE: General Operating Expense

VBA: Veterans Benefit Administration

VHA: Veterans Health Administration

NCA: National Cemetery Administration

OI&T: Office of Information and Technology

We Want You

Got any suggestions for veteran-friendly merchants? Email it to [email protected] with TEN HUT column in the subject line.

Two veteran-friendly merchants are ABS Glass, 416 Anacapa St. in Santa Barbara, and Casey’s Garage, 6398 Hollister Ave. in Goleta. If you go to their shops, tell them you were recommended by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

                                                                 •        •        •

Do you have a story for TEN HUT? Want a local veteran to get recognition? Forward tips to [email protected] with TEN HUT column in the subject line. We want your stories. A length of 500 words is ideal.

Replacement Medals

Need to request a lost replacement Purple Heart or request a Purple Heart not awarded? Or need information about another award or decoration? Here’s how.

If the veteran received a Purple Heart, or another medal, has lost it and wants it replaced, a request must be submitted to:

National Personnel Records Center Medals Section, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis 63132-5100

(Indicate one: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard)

If the veteran has not received a Purple Heart medal, but believes his or her military records include evidence of having been awarded the Purple Heart, or any other decoration, the veteran first must submit the Standard Form 180.

To request a Purple Heart not awarded, the application must be accompanied by proof or evidence, such as statements of witnesses, medical records, newspaper articles or other pertinent correspondence.

Military Records

Click here to request military records and other information. Warning: Use Internet Explorer; other browsers may have a problem.

Records also can be requested by mail from the National Personnel Records Center-Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis 63132-5100.

— Lt. John W. Blankenship (retired) graduated from UC Santa Barbara and the naval flight school in Pensacola, Fla., in 1965. He flew T-34sT-28s, S-2s and finally the P-3C Orion Aircraft with VP-19. Blankenship was stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, and then in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. In 1970, he returned to Santa Barbara to start his career in building and construction, retiring in 2008. He became the founding director of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation in 2004. Ten-HUT is a biweekly column for veterans, active duty and families presented by the PCVF. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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