VA's FutureColumnist Daniel Greenberg -- who regularly...


October 14, 1993

VA's Future

Columnist Daniel Greenberg -- who regularly makes no secret of the fact that he would do away with the Veterans Affairs health-care system -- is at it again.

Mr. Greenberg (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 30) asserts that VA's defined role in a nationally reformed system of medical services is the result of pure political pandering to America's veterans. He again tosses unattributed references to studies and reviews that point to alleged substandard and expensive VA health care.

To both notions I say, utter nonsense.

Changing the status quo and giving VA authority to compete for enrollees was actively sought. Neither I nor the veterans' organizations tarred by his faulty reasoning attempted to take the position that the VA system must remain untouched by reform or that its traditional and time-honored status as a funded federal program could not be tinkered with.

On the contrary, we as well as the president's health advisers see in VA an enormous resource that could serve as a national model for efficient high-quality managed care if freed of many arcane eligibility rules.

Add to that our role in training and educating a large pool of the nation's health-care professionals -- an impressive record of renowned research accomplishments that includes two Nobel prizes -- and the special expertise we have in clinical areas like spinal cord injury, post-traumatic stress and home-based hospital care.

VA's continued presence would not only ensure promised delivery of care to meet the nation's obligation to its veterans but would accrue to the benefit of our most pressing health-care problems.

Mr. Greenberg contends that VA's future obligation to compete with other health plans on an equal basis is likely to be a point of negotiation between veterans groups and the White House. If nothing else indicates how ill-informed he is, it is this concocted idea.

In fact, 14 national veterans organizations have heartily endorsed the basic concept of the president's plan. They and I are in total agreement that we must change with the times. The VA system clearly earned its way into the reform proposal and I, for one, can't wait to get started.

Jesse Brown


The writer is the secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Society at Fault

In his Oct. 5 column, "Making a Killing in Florida," Garry Wills notes that Floridians are purchasing guns in record numbers.

He attributes this phenomenon to "atavistic instinct" -- the "mythic status" of guns being "guarantors of individual safety," machoism and just plain stupidity.

What Mr. Wills fails to acknowledge is the perfectly logical reason why so many non-violent Americans are resorting to buying guns: Government has failed in its most basic constitutional responsibility, which is to protect the lives and property of American citizens.

Failed social experimentation, not the abundance of guns, is the cause for this breakdown in law and order.

As long as government rewards criminal behavior on grounds that society, rather than the individual, is at fault, criminal behavior will continue to flourish.

And when violent crime time and again threatens home and hearth, even the most gentle people will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves.

Pat Rybak

Glen Arm

Unwanted Help

My initial reaction to the Clintons' health care plan is to recommend that government stick to what it does best. Then I realized that what government does best is to usually make worse the object of its endeavor.

The government deems "sinful" the legal activities of smoking and drinking and levies additional taxes on them to discourage their practice. At the same time, it offers free condoms, birth control pills and needles, thereby subsidizing wanton sex and drug abuse.

The government deregulates the airline industry and air fares go down. It regulates cable TV and the rates go up.

The government's attempt to save the children in the Koresh compound from alleged child abuse and the presence of alleged illegal firearms results in the incineration of the children.

Please, spare us more government "help."

Dave Reich


Sham Reform

The headline on Laura Lippman's welfare reform story (Oct. 4), while an accurate depiction of the state's current proposal, was inflammatory and misleading.

People on welfare don't need to be "prodded" like cattle to make them get a job; people on welfare who are able to work want to work; what they need are jobs that pay a living wage.

"Welfare reform" is a sham when it measures success by the number of people placed in jobs where earners still cannot provide food for their families without the help of charity.

One out of nine children in Maryland is hungry. The job status and household income of that child's caretakers are the primary risk factors for hunger.

It's just common sense: Feeding children comes first. Yet approximately one-third of households seeking assistance at Maryland soup kitchens and food pantries are working households.

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