The Independent Institute released a report on the status, progress, and direction of veteran-centered healthcare. Research Fellow Ronald Hamowy made a detailed narrative on the evolution of veterans’ medical care, essentially beginning just after World War 1 as pensions were only awarded prior, to the large, facility-independent system it is today.
The US veteran healthcare system has been taking on more elderly veterans, dramatically more, than younger veterans returning from today’s battlefields. In 2007, 40% of all veterans were over 65 while a scant 8% were under 35. The age discrepancy is forcing the VA to “shift from inpatient to ambulatory care, an increase in chronic care needs in an aging population…” However, with triage medical procedures improved from Vietnam and Korea (2 injured for every 1 killed), more soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters are much more likely to survive combat injuries (16 injured for every 1 killed) and qualify for VA coverage. Also in 2007, there were about 7.8 million enrollees with about 5.5 million enrollees receiving care.
The broader focus of veteran healthcare is moving towards “older” illnesses as opposed to the traumatic, “younger” injuries. The change in focus shows in VA medical expenditures with $40 billion spent in 2007 and increasing another $2 billion in 2009. That $2 billion increase is merely a placeholder with veterans still waiting long periods to receive treatment and consultations.