***image1***Secretary of Veteran Affairs Anthony J. Principi visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center June 2 to see injured patients and assure them that quality care will be waiting for them when their military career is over.
“I’ll worry about paperwork later,” said Secretary Principi. “I’ll worry about who pays for what later. I don’t want to hear anything about beauracracy or red tape. I am confident that the president will provide us with the necessary resources. I know him well enough to know that he cares deeply about the men and women in these hospitals.”
The VA and Department of Defense are working as partners to meet the needs of the newest veterans – the men and women who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
To accomplish this, the two departments are developing a system to move records more efficiently between the two agencies; share critical medical information electronically; process benefit claims as one shared system and in every way possible, make the transition from Soldier to citizen as smooth as can be.
The VA, which boasts a $65 billion budget, has a $6 billion modernization program in the works, scheduled to be completed over the next five years. The program will help make the VA hospitals among the best available.
“The VA’s goal is to ensure that every seriously injured or ill serviceman and woman returning from combat receives priority consideration and world-class service,” he said. “We don’t want injured veterans to look for us. We want to look for them.”
That was the message the secretary was spreading throughout the hospital as he visited different patient wards. As he held a patient’s hand and expressed his deepest sympathies, he reassured each one that care would be there. He also handed out 20 phone cards to each patient, along with his VA Secretary coin.
“I want Soldiers and Marines to get well and get back to duty, but also want them to know that if they are badly injured and unable to continue their service, that the VA is there to take care of them for the rest of their lives.”
The secretary, who was in Europe for the 60th Anniversary of the Allied landing at Normandy, said visiting the wounded recharges and reinforces his belief in his mission. Though seeing the badly injured is still tough to swallow.
“It is always hard to see an injured service member,” he said after visiting the Intensive Care Unit. “But I am gratified to see the quality of care and dedication of our staff. Visiting this facility reinforces my commitment to do everything I can to provide medical care and benefits to our wounded warriors. It just gives me a renewed appreciation and makes me realize how blessed we are to have such wonderful people serving in our armed forces.
“I thought I fought with the best in Vietnam, but clearly the men and women serving today are equal to, if not better, than those I served with.”