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VA disability claims, and costs, rising sharply

To the editor: Thank you for this article showing the stupidity and huge cost of the military veterans program, which is apparently riddled with fraudulent — but acceptable — claims.

Webster’s defines disability as “inability to pursue an occupation because of physical or mental impairment.” Now, apparently it can mean having a headache. (“The ongoing cost of caring for veterans,” July 13)

I am an 84-year-old Navy veteran whose reserve unit was activated during the Korean War. I also served as the civilian manager of a large American company providing support services to the U.S. military in Vietnam during that war, and while there, I saw a lot of action firsthand. That means I was able to “pursue an occupation” after my military service, but I guess that won’t hurt my chances anymore.

I now suffer for many of the problems that apparently would qualify me to receive veteran disability payments of $3,200 a month, including heart failure, knee pain, sleep apnea, shortness of breath, a pacemaker and having to play golf with a tea partier.

I attribute all of these problems to my time in the service in Korea, and accordingly plan to find a VA office soon to apply for my tax-free 100% disability payments, retroactive to my discharge date in October 1958.

Theodore C. Ury, San Juan Capistrano


To the editor: Any discussion about VA benefits becomes extremely emotional; that being said, this article does a very good job pointing out a major defect in the doling out of benefits.

I am probably one of many who know individuals who are receiving benefits they do not deserve.

For the record, I am an eight-year vet who served a year in Vietnam during the Tet offensive. I do have VA benefits, but I only use Medicare.

Howard Warner, Menifee, Calif.


To the editor: Except to tell readers that the cost of caring for veterans is rising, what is this article’s value? Judging the validity of the VA’s increase in costs requires a comparison to other government programs.

Is the VA’s increase excessive when compared with that of welfare programs, Medicare, Social Security disability and dependent widow and children care?

Perhaps a better comparison is the increase in costs of medical benefits of other life-threatening jobs like police or firefighters. What percentage of them are injured or killed in the line of duty as compared to our warriors?

The article, without these comparisons, is not worthy.

Alan L. Strzemieczny, Riverside


To the editor: I am a VA psychiatrist and UCLA professor, but I am expressing my personal views here. I have treated veterans with PTSD for 30 years.

Thank you for bringing national attention to the plight of these courageous women and men. Although costs are climbing, this is primarily because previous generations of soldiers did not use the system — for reasons including shame, guilt and social stigma.

While there is certainly room for reform of the VA disability system, we should not return to a process that denies the existence of PTSD. Vets with mental illness who don’t receive disability payments fare much worse than those who do, and we all pay for the resulting social costs.

We need to expand preventive resilience training for soldiers and families, and to increase research into the treatment of trauma-related mental illness.

The VA system is a fair and humane way to honor our debts to our soldiers.

Bruce Kagan, Los Angeles

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