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Letter to the Editor: Let’s take better care of our veterans

Dear editor,

Since the recent campaigns are over and we are now in a non-political year, I want us to consider some of the subjects concerning what people really need and what they want their elected officials to do in those regards.

This article represents my own personal opinions and is not in any way a reflection on either of our political parties.  In an effort to give full disclosure, I currently serve as chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Executive Committee. I also ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Alabama House of Representatives. Any comments in this article or any future articles have no reflection on my opponent and should not be so construed. This article is intended to point out areas that need addressing.

It is common knowledge that almost all political figures talk about helping our veterans, especially in the area of medical care. And, I believe, most of our citizens have a genuine desire to have our veterans treated with the utmost respect and have the best medical care possible provided for them and their families.  But this is obviously not the current state of affairs.

What follows is real. It has actually happened and is still happening.

My nephew recently retired from our armed forces with over 21 years of service in the United States Air Force. He had six deployments abroad, including four to the Middle East during his career. He served in Iraq, Korea, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

While stationed in Pakistan, he contracted a parasite that caused a stomach infection, which turned into stomach ulcers that still bother him today.

I am extremely proud of him (and all that have served), as are most Alabamians, for how he has served us all. And the toll on his wife is probably grossly unappreciated.

But here is the problem. In spite of my nephew’s dedicated service of over 21 years, the low-cost insurance afforded to him, TRICARE (a registered trademark of the Department of Defense) is not what it should be. They only approve a small number of physicians, and even fewer physicians actually accept their coverage. Often, when my nephew or a member of his family needs medical attention, they must travel a significant distance to either find an approved doctor or one that accepts TRICARE Insurance.

When I asked one physician, who accepts the veterans’ insurance, why many did not accept it, the response was that while TRICARE paid well when the bills were finally approved, it took an extreme amount of paperwork and navigating of red tape to get to that point.

There are currently three Veterans Administration Hospitals located in Alabama: Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Central Alabama (which has a campus in Tuskegee and one in Montgomery). There are several VA clinics throughout the state, with three in our area: Huntsville, Sheffield and Jasper. These clinics are only designed to accommodate the veterans themselves and not family members – and the meds that my nephew’s VA doctor prescribes are not the same as what he was given while on active duty.

So, the question becomes: Why can’t our healthcare system be improved so that our veterans – our real American heroes – and their families can get treated locally by the doctors they choose? It seems to me that they should be allowed to go to the doctor of their choice and that all physicians should be required to accept their insurance.

We all want the best medical care possible (and other needs as well) for our veterans. They deserve it. We should demand they get it.

If you believe this is one area that needs improving, please help begin the conversation by sharing your thoughts with others. We can make a difference.

Respectfully,

Eddie Britton

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