Saturday, January 22, 2011

Veterans' Health Care and the True Costs of War

Way back in my brief and derisory soldier days, I witnessed the phenom of a young man who somehow put a bayonet through his foot. They took him to a military doctor--another young man, this one presumably with good skills but a rotten attitude: he hated everything about the Army. "Son," said the doctor to the soldier, "the army got you into this mess, and the Army's gonna pay..."

Sounds like Danny Zwerdling from NPR has got himself (together with ProPublica) a nice story about the military perhaps fudging  on the benefits of aftercare for military brain injuries because it isn''t too eager to pay the cost of aftercare for military brain injuries.  At least he has caught the attention of Senator Claire McCaskill  who apparently thinks the story has legs enough to justify a Congressional hearing.

Yes, yes, I know this may turn out to be just the gleam in a reporter's eye but it does occur to me: in counting the costs of a war, you would want to count the cost of all damage inflicted on soldiers (and, hey, civilians) whether or not we own up to liability for that cost, not so?  If the military pays it, that's a cost. If the military doesn't pay, and the patient pays, that's still a cost.  If the militasry doesn't pay and the patient can't pay, that's still a cost, not so?  And if nobody pays because there is no potentially effective treatment and the victim brave American hero just languishes, that, too, would be a cost, yes?

Afterthought: recall my rotten-attitude doctor. I'm sure a major source of his ill humor was that he was limping along on Army wages (he was a de facto draftee) when he could have been out knocking back the big bucks. I'm sure he counted that as a cost.

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