Aging Veterans Racial Disparities in Healthcare

Background

Health care is among the basic rights that every person in the United States and worldwide should be granted access to quality treatment. However, disparities and inequalities, such as racial discrimination, have significantly undermined healthcare services in the United States (Peterson et al., 2018). The feeling as though an individual has received unfair treatment because he or she belongs to a stigmatized race or group is perceived as racial discrimination (Hausmann et al., 2020). Veterans in the United States are among the groups that have experienced health care discrimination. In the recent past, the United States government has strived to formulate health care policies to address discrimination against veterans. This paper will present a policy brief regarding racial disparities, specifically discrimination experienced by aging veterans in the provision of health care services.

Policy Identification

Racial discrimination in health care has been among the major problems faced by veterans in the United States. Saha et al. (2008) assert that racial disparities in Veterans Affairs (VA) have been experienced in various clinical areas, especially those that involve mental care. Racial disparities have resulted caused skepticism and mistrust about the benefits of clinical interventions that minority veterans are supposed to receive (Saha et al., 2008). The scope of impact of racial discrimination has been felt among two million men and women veterans who served to stop terrorism wars in countries, including Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan (Korb, 2019). Despite their struggles to protect the country, concerns have been raised regarding racial discrimination in health care, especially among non-White veterans (Peterson et al., 2018). Most non-native veterans who suffer from mental, emotional, and physical health issues have not been treated in a fair manner whenever they seek medical services. This indicates the need to enact favorable health care policies aimed at ensuring fair treatment of all veterans regardless of their race.

Identification of Human Rights

Like any other American, aging veterans are also entitled to human rights and deserve to be treated equally. However, veterans from minority groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, have felt not been granted equal rights (Mays et al., 2017). Veterans’ right to gain access to quality and affordable health care services has been undermined due to racial discrimination. This has resulted in an increased mortality rate among aging veterans, with most of them dying from physical and mental illness (Wong et al., 2020). The impacts of health care racial discrimination against veterans has also undermined their social rights (Livingston et al., 2019). As an individual gets old, they begin to be more dependent on their families, and this calls for improved care. The case is even worse for war veterans who have had worse experiences during their time in services. As such, a significant percentage of veterans suffer from trauma, which requires intensive medical attention (Livingston et al., 2019. In most cases, mental issues need to be addressed by clinical psychologists, who must play their professional role. This means that psychologists have to treat everyone equally without judging their racial background.

Nevertheless, this may not be the case, as many cases of mistreatment and racial discrimination have been reported. According to Rodriguez et al. (2007), non-White veterans have been made to wait for a longer time to be treated or admitted to mental health facilities. This undermines their social rights because they are sometimes denied admission into mental health facilities where they can be taught how to socialize with other people in their mental state.

Analysis of Past and Current Polices

The United States government, through various agencies like the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), has played a major role in the establishment of health care policies that touch on the lives of veterans. It is essential to realize that health care policies have been changing from time to time as the government aims to improve on the past policies. For instance, past policies, such as the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act and the GI Bill of Rights, were established to help world war I (WWI) veterans establish a postwar middle-class system that would help them carter for their needs, including health care (Korb, 2019). Despite the enactment of the policy, many veterans belonging to marginalized races did not enjoy the full benefits as was expected.

Consequently, several policies have been established under the VHA to improve the quality of health care received by veterans. Current policies have attempted to ensure equality in the treatment of veterans regardless of their race. The VHA maintains that all veterans are eligible for treatment under the Veterans Affairs (VA) program, provided they meet the criteria of being regarded as veterans (Panangala, 2016). This means that once a person is enrolled in the VA’s health care program, they are entitled to receive quality and affordable treatment as passed by the Related Agency Appropriations, Veterans Affairs, and Military Constriction Act (Panangala, 2016). One of the reasons for the establishment of the VHA was to address health care disparities like racial discrimination against veterans (Panangala, 2016). As such, the VHA has been at the forefront when it comes to the provision of equal treatment of aging veterans in the United States.

Power Analysis

The United States Congress has the decision-making power to formulate and pass policies that can improve the provision of health care services to veterans. Through their power, Congress can also lobby for extra support from private health care facilities and agencies so that veterans can have a variety of options when it comes to accessing health care services. Additionally, Congress can pass strict laws to curb racial discrimination against aging veterans in health care. On the other hand, the VHA or the VA has agenda-setting power because it is in charge of addressing veterans’ health care needs. The VHA can gather information about health care issues and develop agendas that can be proposed to Congress through the representatives for debate. Subsequently, the ideological power lies with the veterans, and they need to voice their concerns and challenges that they face whenever they seek medical services. This will help the VHA to formulate concrete agendas to push for policy changes.

Proposed Changes

Policy improvement is crucial in addressing racial discrimination against aging veterans in the United States. As such, various changes can be made to ensure proper treatment and care for aging veterans. First, the VHA can employ its staff at major health facilities that are attended by veterans. This is because the staff employed at those facilities may understand the veterans better than normal clinical staff, which will help in the prevention of racial discrimination. Secondly, the VA can improve quality and access to health care services by establishing veteran health care facilities (Farmer et al., 2016). The facilities will be used to treat veterans only, which means that the staff operating there shall have been trained on the importance of cultural and ethnic diversity. By doing so, aging veterans will not have to seek health care services from facilities that are inclined towards racial discrimination.

References

Farmer, C. M., Hosek, S. D., & Adamson, D. M. (2016). Balancing Demand and Supply for Veterans’ Vealth care: A Summary of three RAND Assessments Conducted Under the Veterans Choice Act. Rand health quarterly, 6(1). Web.

Hausmann, L. R., Jones, A. L., McInnes, S. E., & Zickmund, S. L. (2020). Identifying Healthcare Experiences Associated with Perceptions of Racial/ethnic Discrimination among Veterans with Pain: A Cross-sectional Mixed-methods Survey. PloS one, 15(9), e0237650. Web.

Korb, L. J. (2019). Caring for US Veterans: A Plan for 2020. Center for American Progress. Web.

Livingston, N. A., Berke, D. S., Ruben, M. A., Matza, A. R., & Shipherd, J. C. (2019). Experiences of Trauma, Discrimination, Microaggressions, and Minority Stress among Trauma-exposed LGBT Veterans: Unexpected Findings and Unresolved Service Gaps. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 11(7), 695. Web.

Mays, V. M., Jones, A. L., Delany-Brumsey, A., Coles, C., & Cochran, S. D. (2017). Perceived Discrimination in Health Care and Mental Health/Substance Abuse Treatment Among Blacks, Latinos, and Whites. Medical care, 55(2), 173–181. Web.

Panangala, S. V. (2016). Health care for veterans: Answers to frequently asked questions. Web.

Peterson, K., Anderson, J., Boundy, E., Ferguson, L., McCleery, E., & Waldrip, K. (2018). Mortality Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups in the Veterans Health Administration: An Evidence Review and Map. American journal of public health, 108(3), e1–e11. Web.

Rodriguez, K. L., Appelt, C. J., Young, A. J., & Fox, A. R. (2007). African American Veterans’ Experiences with Mobile Geriatric Care. Journal of health care for the poor and underserved, 18(1), 44-53. Web.

Saha, S., Freeman, M., Toure, J., Tippens, K. M., Weeks, C., & Ibrahim, S. (2008). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the VA Health Care System: A Systematic Review. Journal of general internal medicine, 23(5), 654-671. Web.

Wong, M. S., Steers, W. N., Hoggatt, K. J., Ziaeian, B., & Washington, D. L. (2020). Relationship of Neighborhood Social Determinants of Health on Racial/ethnic Mortality Disparities in US veterans—Mediation and Moderating Effects. Health services research, 55, 851-862. Web.

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