With the appointment of, yet again, another Secretary of Veteran Affairs, the conversations around the coffee table lately have been on just how does one really identify the problem sources of this agency and then proceed to fix them — especially when you’re dealing with an entity that has an annual budget of more than $180 billion dollars. Let’s face it: In our country today, with the amount of just individual and corporate bankruptcies, credit insolvencies, high debt and lack of cash flow (that we all periodically experience, and that’s with an average family household budget of about $80,000 a year), who has the ability to totally manage and control an operation that has a proposed 2019 operating budget of $198.6 billion dollars, with around 380,000 employees and operates the largest health-care system in the U.S.? Well, we didn’t know of any one person that can manage that alone. Now in the U. S. there are a few corporations (not government agencies) that have annual revenues about the same as the operating budget of the VA, and those are Berkshire Hathaway at about $224 billion, Apple at about $215 billion and Exxon Mobil at about $200 billion — and their operating budgets will generally reflect a figure of about 10 to 20 percent of revenue. They are for-profit, and certainly have the flexibility in management that our government does not have.

So what all does that budget cover and pay for? There are (from VA figures) a minimum of 9 million veterans served by the Department of Veteran Affairs each year. To serve those 9 million veterans and their families, there are more than 1,700 health-care hospitals, clinics, community living centers and homes, prescriptions and pharmacies, and counseling centers in the U.S. In regards to benefits, the VA administers compensation, pension, education, training, vocational rehabilitation, home loans and life insurance. The VA also offers burial and memorial assistance, as there are more than 125 national cemeteries and the assistance with headstones, markers and medallions. Also provided and available are employment centers, homeless veteran resources and facilities, and assistance for surviving spouses and dependents.

I have here mentioned a few of the VA facilities located in Oregon: Portland VA Medical Center, Roseburg VA Health Care System, and VA Southern Oregon Rehab Center. Outpatient clinics are located in Burns, (541) 573-3339: Newport, (541) 265-4182: The Dalles, (541) 296-3937; and West Linn, (503) 210-4900. Community-based outpatient clinics in eastern Oregon include Bend, (541) 647-5200; Boardman, (541) 481-2255; Enterprise, (541) 426-0219: and La Grande, (541) 963-0627.

The following are locations in Idaho State of the VA facilities: Boise VA Medical Center, (208) 422-1000; Community Based Outpatient Clinics include Caldwell, (208) 454-4820; and Lewiston, (208) 746-7784.

The State of Idaho and the State of Oregon also have State Departments of Veteran Services; to contact the Idaho Division in Boise, call (208) 780-1300. And on www.veterans.idaho.gov, a person can access veterans advocacy, veterans homes, benefits, services and resources.

To contact the Oregon State Department of Veteran Affairs in Salem, call (503) 373-2085 or visit www.oregon.gov/odva. Listings are available for the Oregon Veteran Service Offices in each county, and provide information on benefits, programs, resources, home loans, state veterans homes, etc.

Individuals in Malheur County can contact Connie Tanaka (retired Army) at (541) 889-6649, or stop by 316 Goodfellow St. Suite 4, in Ontario. In Baker County, contact Rick Cloria at (541) 523-8223, or stop by 1995 Third St. in Baker City.

“Facts are stubborn things: and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” —John Adams, who served as the first vice president and second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801.

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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