“I would say the VA has never been honest and straightforward in terms of compensating veterans without a fight,” says Krause, who is himself a veteran and former member of the US Air Force.
“The VA has been around for about 100 years,” says Krause.
“And it always fights claims tooth and nail because it is ultimately an insurance company,” he adds.
“It used to be called the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, but they changed the name in the 1920s,” says Krause. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, no matter what it is called, the VA adjudicated claims like an insurance company.”
Mismanagement, corruption, medical malpractice and delays in access to treatment that have led to reports of as many as 1,000 premature deaths have brought the VA front and center again.
“It would be shocking,” says Krause of the recent allegations, “if it wasn’t so familiar.”
Many veterans making claims or seeking benefits find themselves fighting through bureaucracy on their own. In some instances, their claims are frustrated by the Federal Tort Claims Act that, as Krause describes, frustrates veterans pursuing justice.
“The act severely restricts veterans in that it eliminates punitive damages and also restricts the award to the attorney to 25 percent. Many firms are not willing to take on these claims even if they are meritorious.”
However, Krause predicts, despite that, “the process is going to get bigger.
“Attorneys will start exploring some of the constitutional questions related to medical malpractice at the VA,” says Krause.
“Veterans have constitutional rights,” says Kraus. “They have a right and an expectation to timely care.”
There have recently been accusations that VA employees conspired to restrict access to veterans’ care in order to avoid putting in a full day’s work.
“A whistleblower reported that schedulers and doctors at one VA location conspired to artificially restrict their case load to two vets a week,” says Krause. “If they overbooked, then the scheduler would cancel the appointment in the computer and blame the cancelation on the vet so no one would know they were denying access to health care to vets,” says Krause.
These kinds of situations may generate new legal actions.
“I think law firms are going to take on more of these cases as class actions because of the significant public policy impact. We are going to see a fair amount of these come forward because these issues have affected so many veterans across the board, in a very similar manner, and they are all tied into policy problems related to a veteran’s vested right to an expectation of access to timely health care,” says Krause.
The VA’s budget is now about $160 billion a year. An amount, that if managed correctly and not subject to corrupt practices, might help more vets. However, Krause says, it still falls far short of what is really needed under the current circumstances.
“It costs a lot of money to take care of people that we send off to war and who are then harmed,” says Krause. “That is not cheap. And I think our country has tended to underestimate those numbers.”
“Dick Cheney, the former Vice President, estimated the war in Iraq would cost $60 billion and in fact it cost $4 trillion and climbing. That is absurd,” says Krause.
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Astute, powerful observations like that have made Krause a sought-after lawyer and leading advocate in the ongoing struggle by disabled veterans.
Benjamin Krause is the founder and CEO of Armo Press, LLC and creator of its website, DisabledVeterans.org. He created the website to battle the VA in the court of public opinion. On the site, Benjamin publishes news articles and veterans’ stories that inform the public and help veterans get their benefits. He also openly discusses his own benefits struggles as a disabled veteran.