Monday, August 31, 2009
The rule change seems to be infusing compassion and common sense into the system.
The majority of those who work for Department of Veterans Affairs care deeply about the welfare of our veterans. They want to help those who served the nation in the military.
Yet, the VA is a huge bureaucracy, which has too often resulted in rules being followed so rigidly that common sense and compassion become obscured.
Unfortunately, that can result in veterans being denied the benefits and treatment they need and deserve.
But Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki is pushing a plan that could begin to solve that problem. The VA is proposing new regulations that should make it easier for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to be compensated. The changes start with essentially redefining combat to situations in which soldiers could come under fire.
Current rules require veterans who have received diagnoses of PTSD to document that they experienced traumatic events during military service that triggered the disorder, The New York Times reported. For veterans who did not serve in designated combat units -- truck drivers and supply clerks, for example -- providing proof has been difficult.
The fact is that soldiers, sailors and Marines in war zones -- regardless of the unit they are assigned or their official job title -- can be killed or injured by roadside bombs, firefights or mortar attacks. The deaths of friends or colleagues can also be traumatizing.
Yet, even after being diagnosed with PTSD by doctors, those who were suffering were denied disability compensation.
The proposed rule would eliminate the requirement to document triggering events if veterans can show they were in places and performed duties where the triggering events might have occurred, The Times reported last week.
"The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and comprehensively by this administration as we move (the) VA forward in its transformation to the 21st century," Shinseki said in a new release issued Monday.
The rule change -- as long as it allows for compassion and common sense -- should be a good one.
Some veterans advocates welcome the change and are optimistic it will remove most of the unreasonable barriers to compensation. But that optimism isn't unanimous.
Given the VA's past blunders -- unintentional or not -- it's prudent to be wary of a VA policy change.
However, Shinseki seems committed to making rhetoric become reality. In his short time in office Shinseki appears to be working heavily toward changing a culture built on following rules at the expense of helping veterans.
The latest change under Shinseki's watch is a welcome one. Veterans suffering from PTSD have earned our help.