Veterans Care vs. Other Countries
For those of us involved with or following Veterans issues, many of the barriers seem insurmountable. From problems with the VA and the increased numbers of Veterans returning from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to bureaucratic fights in Congress, the amount of care needed for America’s former soldiers is unprecedented.
But the United States is not the only country fighting for the safety and care of Veterans. Nearly every ally of America faces similar challenges when their men and women return home from combat or military life.
How does the VA and benefits offered to Veterans compare with the rest of the world? A 1994 study by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) painted a rosy picture for the United States. Some of the findings from the report include:
- Eligibility for Veterans healthcare benefits is limited in the four countries studied (United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, and Australia) compared to the United States.
- America has the youngest and most robust Veteran population compared to Australia, Finland, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
- Australia’s Veteran hospitals suffered from understaffing and couldn’t compete with private healthcare facilities (a problem new VA secretary Bob McDonald has admitted).
- The United Kingdom eventually opened hospitals to non-Veterans. Australia, Finland, and Canada eventually adopted this strategy as well.
- The United States has a long history of preserving the “direct delivery system” for Veteran’s care. Other countries have moved away from this over the years to supplement services and create more flexibility for Veterans and healthcare providers.
A 2011 review of the report from Veterans Today also showed that:
- Only the United States and Canada have life insurance programs for disabled Veterans.
- The United States provides “most types” of survivor benefits to family members of Veterans.
- Surviving spouses of Veterans in the United States are the only ones who receive survivor education benefits.
- More types of disabilities are compensated for in the United States than in other countries.
Although the GAO study is outdated, it shows that Veteran care in the United States is all encompassing. The VA offers countless benefits not available in other countries, from home loans to the GI Bill. Why then is the VA and Veteran care in general considered such a burden?
Size is one problem. The huge Veteran population and bureaucratic size of the VA possibly contributes to an inefficient business model. Smaller countries may have smaller budgets, but they also serve fewer Veterans and have smaller veterans’ departments.
Another study updated in 2014 by Veterans Affairs Canada sheds light on the sheer numbers of Veterans in the United States versus other countries.
- In 2010, the United States served 23.8 million Veterans; Canada served 220,000; Australia served 415,000; and the United Kingdom served 900,000.
- The VA’s $100 billion budget was five times higher than the next closest country.
- VA employs 278,500 individuals. That’s more than the number of Veterans Canada serves (220,000).
Both studies show the sheer numbers that the VA and the United States has to contend with make providing for Veterans a difficult issue.
Hypothetically, the United States offers the best benefits for Veterans and their families. But due to the large number of Veterans and bureaucratic size of the VA, providing benefits effectively and timely is complicated.