December 2017 Press Release from VA Lists Achievements, Doesn’t Tell Whole Story

December 2017 Press Release from VA Lists Achievements, Doesn’t Tell Whole Story

In a self-congratulatory and official VA press release on December 21, 2017, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, announced a myriad of alleged successes in improving the VA last year. Among the many accomplishments claimed, Shulkin makes three specific claims that deserve a second look. As you will note, each is a bit too vague to really prove true or false. Still, it seems reality may look a little different for actual veterans.

“Veteran Trust Scores are Up to 70 Percent”

In 2014, shortly after former VA Secretary Shinseki was ousted amidst allegations of falsifying veteran’s claims files, YouGov.com reported that over 70 percent of U.S. veterans felt care was worse at VA facilities than in normal hospitals. A year later, in 2015, a Tarrance Group poll revealed that an astounding 88 percent of veterans would rather seek medical attention through civilian or private providers than the VA, according to DisabledVeterans.org. 

So, are we to believe that in 2017, 70 percent of veterans have trust in the VA to provide high-quality care and reach claims decisions in a timely and fair manner?  Not likely.  Even the VA’s own research suggests that just 41 percent of eligible veterans use VA care. Research also suggests that just 14 percent of minority veterans who are eligible actually seek VA care. This according to ConnectingVets.com. So, despite Secretary Shulkin’s remarkable claim within the recent VA press release, there is perhaps a gray area that should be explored when it comes the level of trust held by veterans.

“We’ve Helped 1 Million Veterans Use the GI Bill This Year”

No doubt, it seems quite likely that 1 million veterans have used the GI Bill. The question should be, are they actually getting degrees? The data suggests otherwise.

According to independent research from The Hechinger Report, a lot of veterans do indeed return to college and use their GI Bill benefits, yet the vast majority do not complete their formal college education. Those who do often require a substantially longer time for completion. The study shows that just 15 percent of those veterans attending on the GI Bill actually graduate within 2 years. The number drops to just 7 percent for those attending part-time.

According to the report, 2014 is the most recent year for which this data is available, so while 1 million veterans may have attended college in 2017, this says nothing of whether they will be able to complete their degrees within a reasonable amount of time.

“Veteran Unemployment is at Just 2.7% – its Lowest Rate in 17 Years”

Is it really? Well, according to one source, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers are skewed, because they rely heavily on canned responses to surveys. This from Task and Purpose just this November.

For instance, a look at data obtained through a study in partnership between the Call of Duty Foundation and ZipRecruiter (a national online job search company) tells a different story. It turns out that veterans are simply more likely to work side hustles and be underemployed. So, while they technically do not meet the definition of ‘unemployed’ for BLS purposes, they may be terribly underemployed. Even trimming a friend’s tree for $25 would render a veteran ‘employed.’  Interestingly, Task and Purpose also reports that post-9/11 veterans are disproportionately unemployed at greater rates than older veterans.

Getting Help Dealing with VA

While the VA is an excellent organization with a beneficial mission, veterans who routinely deal with its bureaucracy know all too well that the numbers and achievements touted by leadership, like those in the recent VA press release, are often a bit off the mark. When applying for disability compensation or appealing an unjust denial, you need skilled legal advice from a VA-accredited attorney who can guide you through the maze of rules and regulations and help you to get the benefits you earned. Klok Law Firm LLC can help with even your toughest VA questions.

Contact the office to speak with us today.

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