Doctor’s Rx for VA crisis: Give vets vouchers for private hospitals

Doctor’s Rx for VA crisis: Give vets vouchers for private hospitals

I am a veteran, and I am A physician. I have practiced medicine in a Veterans Affairs hospital, and I have spent years in health-plan administration. This vantage point is not unique, but it is broad enough to give me some insight into the problems plaguing the VA health system.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation is justified, of course. The chronic deficiencies of the VA have only grown during his watch. But replacing Shinseki will not address the VA’s fundamental problems. Put bluntly, switching jockeys doesn’t change a mule into a racehorse.

The problem of the VA is not underfunding. In the last 10 years, its budget has doubled, while its patient load has increased only 30 percent. The problem is not a huge influx of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns needing expensive care. The average expense for these younger vets is $4,800 per year, compared with $8,800 per year for older vets.

The younger ones comprise only 7 percent of the patients, and only 4 percent of the expenditures. Similarly, the problem of the VA is not that so many vets are growing older with increased health care needs. The age distribution of veterans has been unchanged for more than a decade.

To attribute the failures of the VA health system to mismanagement is accurate, of course, but incomplete. It is essential to realize that the VA is mismanaged not by accident but by design. As software developers say, it isn’t a bug; it’s a feature.

The VA is a Soviet-style single-payer system that has no competitive pressure. Such a system is designed to meet its own bureaucratic needs, rather than those of the veterans. As long as vets can get their government-provided health care only at the government-run facility, the vets cannot signal their dissatisfaction by taking their business elsewhere.

Our vets deserve better than the negligence and mendacity that is the daily offering of the Veterans Health Administration. We trusted these men and women to defend our country. We can trust them to use vouchers to meet their health needs in the same private marketplace used by the rest of the country. It’s time to stop treating our vets as second-class citizens.

Eric Chevlen MD, Liberty

Sixty years after Brown decision, school testing remains inequitable

Kudos to Robert FAULKNER, Warren City Board of Education member, for his timely and pertinent comments in The Vindicator article about the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregated schools.

When analyzing state test scores, educators see that urban students almost always score lower than their suburban counterparts.

Mr. Faulkner stated that state tests are biased in favor of more affluent students who can afford to have more life experiences. We almost always see this scenario play out, despite top-notch instruction.

Based on my own experiences in urban education, I will go a step further and include the social issues that impact test scores — generational poverty, community disinterest and fractured families.

In modern education, Best Practices suggest that students be taught on individual levels, rather than being part of a system that advances a “one-education- fits-all” approach.

I would ask that testing companies and the Ohio Department of Education be mindful of these issues and create more equitable measures of student progress.

Denise Gorman, Youngstown

Try soy dogs, ‘un-chicken,’ veggie burgers on your grill this summer

Folks ready to fire up their outdoor grill this summer face a deadly choice of inflicting food poisoning or cancer on family and friends. They can get food poisoning by E. coli and Salmonella bacteria if they under-cook the meat and cancer if they heat meat to the point of creating cancer-causing compounds.

Luckily, a bunch of enterprising food manufacturers and processors have met this challenge head-on by developing a great variety of healthful, delicious, and convenient un-chicken, veggie burgers and soy dogs.

These delicious plant-based foods don’t harbor nasty pathogens or cancer-causing compounds. They don’t even carry cholesterol, saturated fats, drugs, or pesticides. And, they are available in the frozen- food section at most supermarkets and natural-food stores. Check out the array of alternative cheese and mayonnaise substitutes, delicious and cholesterol free, in the refrigerated section, too.

This summer season offers a superb opportunity to consign meat to a bad memory and make new memories by sharing wholesome veggie options that are better for you and your family and friends.

Peter Zack, Youngstown

Do not stereotype drug addicts as all being heartless and selfish

I am sitting here thinking about a young friend of mine (we’ll call her Amber). She passed away recently from drugs.

A lot of people who do drugs just stay on that lifestyle day after day. A lot of addicts do not call for help anymore. They only care about drugs.

Some get help, get into a program, get a job and are productive people. My friend “Amber” had a very kind heart. I had done little things for her and every time she saw me she would hug me so tight and say “I love you!” She came to my house after she got on her feet and insisted that I take $40 for all I had done for her.

Then at Christmas she bought me a little fountain. Good people are taken away from us every day from drugs.

What I want to say is nobody grows up planning to be an addict, dying at a young age or wasting their life away.

Young people, stay away from drugs. Lead a good, Godly life. Stay in the right circle of friends.

Mostly what I want to write is “Amber” mattered to me and my family. I have thought and cried about her. That’s because she was a kind-hearted person. She surely mattered to me and touched my life.

Sandy Tomlin, Youngstown

Columnists Lacivita and Barreca made editorial page refreshing

It was refreshing to read the editorial page of May 17 about normal things instead of indictments and political corruption and war.

The columns by Youngstowner Michael Lacivita about lessons to live by and Gina Barreca about spring cleaning for the soul really hit home for me as I am 85 and really relate to them.

As I read almost the whole paper and usually spend one hour or more each morning with it over coffee, I really enjoyed these two articles and most everything else. Thank you very much.

Gerry Millerleile, Hubbard