Congress Right to Push for Uniform E-Health Record

Readers of Tom Philpott’s Military Update Column Sound Off

Your recent column on electronic health records dealt with a topic of great interest to me and to my fellow Directors of Veterans Affairs.

Lack of a uniform electronic health record is a major problem.  The Department of Defense must do this.  Creating a compatible platform between VA and DOD is crucial and would greatly assist processing of VA claims.

Criticism of VA on the backlog is overblown as no one has done more on this issue than VA Secretary [Eric] Shinseki and Under Secretary of Benefits [Allison A.] Hickey.  The move to electronic claims processing is the way to go, and the sooner DoD and VA have electronic health record compatibility the better.

TERRY SCHOW
Executive Director
Utah Department of Veterans Affairs<
Salt Lake City, Utah

Both the VA and DoD could adapt health records to the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) standards used by health insurance providers to transfer data between participating entities, and integrate this into existing software on both ends.  Some changes would be required but the core systems at both VA and DoD could remain the same. 

The problem here is that one or both departments would need to change horses, and that constitutes a big training issue for one or both.  I can see why they would resist the urge to do this. 

This is a "simple" fix.  It could have been done for a $1 billion if done originally as a target.

MARK KUSIAK
Via email

ABSENCE OF HONOR

I'm writing this with sadness and loathing for lack of integrity of some of our service members.  Lately we can't open a newspaper or listen to the news without facing the topic of military sex scandals.  Topping it off were reports of an officer in charge of preventing and investigating these crimes being arrested for assaulting a woman outside a strip club!

I understand this is a different military than the one I retired from in 1989.  However, we had women serving with us too and the atmosphere could often be very much the same.

One aspect drummed into us then, however, was "honor."  We were expected to be a representative for our unit, on duty or off.  I switched to the medical field in 1980 and found myself in a field where men were in the minority.  I was a 30-year-old married E-6 going through training with kids straight out of boot camp, with freedom after months of rigid training.

I hadn't paid much attention to sexual mores of the time but we soon had an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases running rampant on base.  It was noted that some were having more than one partner a night.

I frequently found myself with opportunities with various females even though they knew I was married.  Some of my fellow married classmates saw nothing wrong with playing around, ignoring the damage they were doing to the whole rank structure, and responsibilities that went along with this.

I'm not in anyway blame on females who have been forced to have sex by someone of greater rank.  I'm ashamed that military leaders, down to the boot, haven't been instilled with the honor of military service for the greatest country on earth.  They defile those with whom they serve, and should be locked up for the lives they've ruined.

JOHN GRAF
Via email

VETERAN STATUS

A while back, you wrote an article about veteran status for retired Reserve and National Guard members. What is happening with this legislation? 

GARY RODDY

The Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (HR 679), introduced by Rep. Timothy Walz (D-Minn.) would grant to veteran status to any person entitled to retired pay for Reserve or Guard service or to any person in that "gray area" who has earned reserve retired pay as soon as they reach the required age threshold, usually 60.

The bill cleared the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee last month and is expected to clear the full committee soon, to be approved by the full House by summer.

Key to final passage, however, is in the Senate where Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, has opposed the bill in past years, fearing that it would lead to expansion of reserve benefits.

Both the House and companion Senate bill -- S 629 introduced by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) -- specifically would prohibit honorary veteran's status from conferring new benefits on Guard and Reserve retirees.  So advocates for the bill are continuing to press Senator Burr to change his mind. -- Tom Philpott

THOSE PAID MORE SHOULD PAY MORE

I remember my recruiter saying, "The only promise is you will get what you put into it."  I raised hell as a young guy.  My body paid a price for all that "training" we did with the Marine Corps.  As a Navy Corpsman, I saw a lot of retirees get the care they earned; then came TRICARE in 1993.  We were part of the TRICARE pilot in Hawaii.  Talk about gates of hell opening.

"You can't tell me where I go for care!"

Unfortunately, they can!  "You want to pick your own care go pay for it yourself." 

But an E-6 retiree pays the same as an O-6 retiree.  That's wrong!  Basing level of fees on pay grade is the right answer and would make a great fix to the system.  Somewhere along the way somebody looked the other way.  So quit campaigning on how the service member "deserves the respect of this nation" and let's turn around and by sticking it to them in their wallets.  Raise fees but responsibly by tiering them, which was the original intent of TRICARE.  Get paid more?  You should pay more.

That's the bottom line.

ANDREW CABRAL
Via email

Letters may be edited for clarity or length. Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to militaryforum@aol.com or visit www.militaryupdate.com

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About

Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott's Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is Military.com.

Glory Denied

Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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