Guess who tried to prevent the va crisis and who stood in their way

Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz saw what was going to happen with the VA.

In 2008, two very smart people—one a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the other a Nobel laureate in economics—wrote a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War. In it, they said that most Americans had a very wrong idea of how much the Iraq War cost. They didn’t say much about what has happened in the last few weeks, but they did talk about how veterans coming back from Iraq would put a huge strain on the VA system, which was something we weren’t ready for.

And that was before Afghanistan got more help.

As soon as he took the oath of office, Barack Obama sent over 60,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to fight. Now, five years after he took office, the number of troops is back to where it was when he took office. So you can add 60,000 troops for five years on top of what Bilmes and Stiglitz said it would cost. Their estimates were checked and confirmed by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and Nobel laureate Lawrence Klein, who is known as the father of modern economic forecasting.

Still, Congress wouldn’t give the VA more money.

For many years, the VA health care system’s discretionary funding had been growing at a rate of about 6% per year. This was a little less than what the average American family spent on health care, making it the most cost-effective system in the country. The quality rankings, on the other hand, put it at the top every year, above all of its private competitors. It was the best way to get medical care in the United States.

Until the soldiers came home.

In 2005, the Washington Post said, “Republicans stopped a Democratic plan to give almost $2 billion more for veterans’ health care.” They did this by rejecting claims that Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals are in crisis.

Bilmes told ABC News the following year, “In 2004, there were 400,000 unfinished cases at the VA. The number was 500,000 last year. There are now 600,000 cases in the queue. That will be in just two years. And the big wave of Iraq war vets coming home hasn’t even started yet.”

Still, the VA budget kept growing by 6% every year, as if the war had never happened.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about… In 2012, the Washington Post said, “Proposed cuts in Department of Veterans Affairs spending on major construction and maintenance that doesn’t happen every year threaten to stop efforts to update the department’s ageing infrastructure.” So, Democratic Senator Patty Murray led the charge to give the VA more money for building, but Republicans stopped her.

Later that year, Paul Ryan, who was in charge of the House Budget Committee for the Republicans, put out the party’s annual budget plan. If it had become law, the VA would have had to cut its budget by billions of dollars, which would have forced smaller facilities in rural areas to close.

Senator Murray wasn’t surprised when it was said that VA hospitals lied about the number of veterans on their waiting lists because they didn’t want the world to know that they couldn’t give their patients treatments that could save their lives. “In a place where everyone is told to “keep costs low,” Don’t tell me anything costs more.'” This makes it easy for people to make up numbers “she said in an interview not long ago.

Who would have thought that, after years of cutting costs over and over again in Washington, the federal government actually spends our money on important things? Who would have thought that wars, tax cuts, and keeping our infrastructure in good shape all cost money? Definitely not the Republicans. While the Bush administration got us into two wars and cut taxes on the rich, who were already getting a bigger share of the pie than they had since the Roaring Twenties, Republicans in Congress blocked every Democratic effort to give the VA the money it needed to give our veterans the medical care they were promised. Then, when the Obama administration tried to fix this money problem, Republicans said they wanted to cut spending even more.

This should be a warning to every politician and voter who thinks we can cut our way to prosperity: Those dollar amounts represent real services that the government gives to real people. Every cut costs something, and not just money. The lives.

This opinion piece was in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel today.

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