October 3, 2023

OPINION: Government shutdown hurts our veterans — They deserve better.

Dr. Manny Alvarez: Our health-care system is being harmed by the government shutdown

Congressional paralysis has turned America into a deadbeat nation, unable to pay its bills, unable to pay federal employees, unable to provide the American people with all the services they deserve. What a disgrace!

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With Republicans and Democrats still deadlocked on immigration and other issues, the deadline to reach a deal to fund the government came and went Saturday morning, with no resolution in sight. Each side points fingers and blames the other, like two children confronted by their mother for misbehavior.

The shutdown is particularly dangerous because it threatens the health – even the lives – of some Americans served by our health-care system. These people should not be penalized for the inability of our elected representatives to agree on legislation needed to fund our government.

Plans called for the Department of Health and Human Services to furlough about half of its staff – almost 41,000 employees.

Kaiser Health News reports that the shutdown will “have far-reaching effects for public health, including the nation’s response to the current, difficult flu season” because plans called for the Department of Health and Human Services to furlough about half of its staff – almost 41,000 employees.

These 41,000 men and women include dedicated professionals working to protect the health of the American people on a broad range of projects such as tracking flu outbreaks, investigating other outbreaks of infectious diseases, conducting clinical trials of new drugs with the potential to save lives, and many other critically important programs.

Members of the military and their families will also be hurt by the shutdown, because military hospitals and dental clinics will be canceling elective procedures and primary-care appointments.

Veterans will be impacted as well. Community health centers that treat veterans have already suffered funding cuts in the current budget and could be hurt even more by a prolonged government shutdown.

The last time our elected officials allowed a government shutdown to happen in 2013, disability benefits for veterans were put on hold, causing an already incredibly backlogged system to become even more inefficient.

In the current shutdown, nearly 16,000 Department of Veterans Affairs staff – about 4 percent of department employees – are subject to being furloughed. Almost half of those come from the Veterans Benefits Administration.

According to Military.com, it seems disability payments may continue to be made for the time being now to the 5.1 million veterans who receive them. But the report goes on to warn that this won’t be the case if the shutdown lasts several weeks.

As of 2016, two years after the Veteran’s Choice program went into effect to let veterans go outside the military health system for medical care, the number of veterans waiting more than a month to be seen by a doctor had increased by more than 70,000, according to an NPR report.

The Veterans Affairs Healthcare System has come under fire in recent years for a well-documented history of mismanagement, unsanitary conditions, falsified records and preventable patient deaths.

So the thought of furloughing anyone associated with trying to make this system run more smoothly for the 6 million veterans and their families who rely on it for their well-being is downright shameful.

These are only some of the ways the government shutdown will harm people in need of health care. And the longer the shutdown lasts, the more serious the situation will become. Get it together, Congress. The American people deserve better than this!

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny’s work, visit AskDrManny.com.

Source: Fox News