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Elderly Veterans’ Needs, Services, and Policy Essay


Facts of the Policy Chosen

Veterans are “individuals who served in the country’s naval, military, or air service, and were released under honorable conditions” (Wormer & Link, 2015, p. 19). The number of elderly veterans in the nation has continued to increase. For instance, in 2015, the largest number of male veterans (28%) were represented by people aged 55-46 (). For women, 45-to-54-year-old veterans were the majority, whereas the 55-to-64-year-old group came an as close second (21.2%) (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015b). In 2012, the U.S. Census indicated that the United States had over 12.4 million veterans aged 65 years and above (Torres-Gil, 2014). Most of these veterans were involved in different conflicts around the world such as the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and World War II (Stone, 2012). In 1862, a basic system of pension was established for veterans who were injured during service; however, the proposition was improved when in 1890 the Dependent and Disability Pension Act (DDA) was enacted. DDA consisted of financial programs for war participants and provided pensions to all disabled veterans, including non-wounded or injured veterans. The fact that DDA granted a pension to all disabled veterans regardless of the injured was related to service was a significant breakthrough and an important improvement.

The Veterans Affairs (VA) pension policy is relevant because it ensures that these veterans are eligible for numerous benefits. In 1930, President Hoover signed an executive order for the creation of the Department of Veteran Affairs. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established to provide adequate services and benefits to meet the changing needs of many elderly veterans. The Veterans Affairs (VA) pension policy is the most important source of income for some veterans and is a comprehensive program that addresses, not only economic needs but numerous social and health benefits. The policy is implemented as a pension program to support more veterans in the country. Some of the benefits covered by the pension policy program include training, home loans, disability compensation, and burial. The support is also extended to members of the family and living spouses. Some of the most important pension benefits for Veterans are:

  1. Final Pay Plan: this plan is for soldiers who entered military service before September 8, 1980. The retirement pay is computed using 50 percent of basic pay after 20 years of services plus an additional 2.5 percent for each year (U.S. Department of Defense, n.d.).
  2. High-36 Plan: ​Plan 36 is for soldiers who joined the military service between September 1980 and July 31, 1986. Retirement pay is computed using 50 percent of the average of the 36 months of basic pay after 20 years of service, plus an additional 2.5 percent for each year (U.S. Department of Defense, n.d.).
  3. Career Status Bonus (CSB)/REDUX: ​This retirement plan is for soldiers who joined the military after August 1, 1986, have a choice of two retirements, the High 36 plan or retire under the provision of the Military Retirement Reform Act (U.S. Department of Defense, n.d.).

Despite these initiatives and promises of the pension policy, experts have shown conclusively that many elderly veterans face various predicaments such as lack of proper transportation, unfair judicial processes, inadequate social services, and poor living standards (Wormer & Link, 2015). Some senior veterans are unaware of the requirements needed to qualify for the VA program due to a poor system of management used by the state organizations (Boyer, 2016).

Social Issues Addressed by the Policy

A number of social issues affecting the targeted population such as lack of finances have been the focus of the pension policy. The VA pension program provides various benefits to deal with various problems such as poverty and unstable income, homelessness, and disability among others (Torres-Gil, 2014). The policy has led to the creation of new programs that offer different benefits to elderly veterans. For instance, the aid and attendance program offers monthly pensions to individuals who meet specific conditions or requirements (“The history of aid and attendance assistance,” 2017). Furthermore, the aid and attendance and housebound benefits (i.e., the benefits that are paid in addition to basic pension rate) are provided. This program offers monthly pensions to individuals who meet specific conditions or requirements (“The history of aid and attendance assistance,” 2017), i.e., are unable to care for themselves.

Poverty

Some of the elderly veterans receive insurance cover, home loans, and educational resources. In other words, the program provides the means of addressing poverty among veterans. Financial assistance and saving options are typically viewed as the primary tool for reducing poverty levels among veterans.

Homelessness

Homelessness is another challenge that makes it impossible for several elderly veterans to lead quality lifestyles (Wormer & Link, 2015). Perl et al. (2015) indicate that around 10 percent of homeless citizens in the United States are senior veterans. Most of these veterans are mentally challenged, disabled, or substance abusers (Perl et al., 2015). The current policy lacks adequate channels or measures to address these issues affecting the population. Veterans must be provided with an opportunity to live in a retirement facility. Furthermore, money-saving options should also be offered.

Healthcare

The VA pension policy is implemented to support different elderly veterans with diverse social needs. For instance, the program ensures that long-term care is available to more individuals who are in need of daily support from a caregiver. These benefits are also available to the family members of surviving veterans. The policy has therefore been designed in such a way that it addresses most of the social issues and challenges affecting elderly veterans. Additionally, senior veterans can apply for financial help especially when in need of home care (Cozza, Lerner, & Haskins, 2014). The identified framework is designed for veterans living in different regions (Torres-Gil, 2014). Disabled persons can also benefit from the aid and attendance program.

However, elderly veterans must fulfill specific requirements before benefiting from the program. The use of these requirements has been identified as one of the deterrents that make it impossible for a significant number of elderly veterans to receive high-quality social support (Cozza et al., 2014). Due to the ineffectiveness of the policy, a number of agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have emerged in order to identify and address most of the issues ignored by this policy.

Detailed Analysis of the Policy

Analysis of the Policy

Lengthy or Complicated Application Process

The establishment of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was an ingenious move that was aimed at supporting the emerging social and economic needs of many service members (Torres-Gil, 2014). Since the number of aging veterans has continued to increase significantly, more veterans are being required to enroll for the VA benefits and assistance services (Wormer & Link, 2015). The VA pension scheme provides tax-free benefits to wartime veterans earning low incomes (Torres-Gil, 2014). The scheme provides financial support and benefits to veterans who require supplemental income, disability insurance, and healthcare needs. Disabled veterans also qualify for the VA program (Wormer & Link, 2015). The next step consists of initiating the process by filing the right documents. The process has been associated with complex legal processes especially when the applications are rejected by the VA department.

The VA program has gone further to outline a complex process that must be followed by veterans who want to receive such benefits. For an elderly veteran to be eligible for different compensations or benefits, he or she “must have been disabled as a result of illness or disease while in service” (Cozza et al., 2014, p. 5). Furthermore, veterans “must have three months of active service and at least a day during a wartime period” (Torres-Gil, 2014, p. 89). The program also requires targeted veterans to be aged 65 years or more. Eligible veterans should be disabled or receiving social security and disability insurance.

That being the case, the VA pension policy has promised to support the changing needs of many elderly veterans. For instance, the program focuses on various issues such as social problems, transportation, and disability. Unfortunately, the policy has been failing to meet the needs of many veterans in rural regions. Cozza et al. (2014) indicate that majority of rural elderly veterans are forced to deal with chronic diseases, lack of transportation, and depression. This fact explains why rural veterans have been identified as a vulnerable American population whose needs should be taken seriously.

The disparity of Services in Rural Areas

A critical analysis goes further to indicate that more elderly veterans are experiencing a wide range of challenges in their respective communities. For instance, the number of veterans affected by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has increased significantly (Gale & Heady, 2013). The change has led to an increase in the number of cases of trauma and depression. The number of elderly veterans struggling with personal problems such as substance abuse or mental health is also on the rise (Torres-Gil, 2014). The observed phenomenon means that more are under the threat of committing suicide. Unfortunately, the policy has ignored the issues and facts surrounding the wellbeing of elderly veterans. The identified problem is especially topical for the people living in rural areas due to the infrastructure problems and the ensuing unavailability of the relevant services (Sternberg et al., 2016).

Referral or Education Regarding VA Benefits upon Separation from the Military

The above problem arises from the procedures needed to apply for a number of welfare services and financial assistance. Although the stipulated requirements are necessary, they end up preventing more elderly veterans from benefiting from the policy (“The history of aid and attendance assistance,” 2017). This fact explains why more people have decided to ignore the benefits and handle the hardships of a veteran’s life independently. Additionally, there is a disparity when it comes to the nature and quality of social services available to rural and urban elderly veterans. Other challenges facing this vulnerable population include lack of transformation, and inadequate human services (Torres-Gil, 2014).

Recommendations for the Policy Reform and Justifications

The issues and gaps associated with VA pensions explain why new measures should be implemented to support the needs of many veterans. While the number of such veterans is on the rise, most of the programs initiated and supported by the Elderly Veterans Policy have failed to fulfill the promises outlined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Cozza et al., 2014). In order to meet the social and economic needs of these elderly veterans, it will be appropriate to begin by revising the eligibility requirements for the targeted clients, i.e., participation in the Mexican Border Period, WWI, WWII, the Korean conflict, Vietnam War, and Gulf War (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2015a). This kind of reform will make it easier for more elderly veterans and their family members to receive the benefits outlined by the policy since misunderstandings and misconceptions occurring due to the vagueness of the current standards will be avoided (Torres-Gil, 2014). On top of that, the judicial process associated with the application for different benefits should be streamlined. By so doing, more elderly citizens in the United States will address most of the social issues and economic challenges affecting them.

The second recommendation that should be embraced to promote policy reform is to provide assistance and adequate benefits without any form of discrimination. It is agreeable that most of the elderly veterans rendered superior services to the nation. This knowledge should be used by pioneers of the policy to widen the nature and quality of services available to the greatest number of elderly veterans (Perl et al., 2015). By simplifying the application process and reducing most of the requirements, more veterans will find it easier to apply for the benefits and eventually realize their unique needs.

The third recommendation is to address the issues undermining the effectiveness of the VA pension policy. Certain hurdles such as substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and homelessness make it hard for the affected veterans to lead quality lives. These problems expose them to more challenges that can make it impossible for them to meet their financial needs (“The history of aid and attendance assistance,” 2017). It is also undeniable that these challenges go further to affect the wellbeing of the family members relying on these elderly veterans for upkeep (Perl et al., 2015). Mental health is another problem area that affects the welfare of many elderly veterans in the United States. The majority of the affected veterans eventually become homeless. The policy should, therefore, be changed in order to meet these social needs.

The fourth recommendation is to reduce the existing gaps that make it hard for more beneficiaries to realize their potential. The VA caseworker is usually empowered to make specific decisions whenever targeting specific veterans who can benefit from the aid and assistance program (Perl et al., 2015). These measures have been observed to affect the effectiveness of the program. The policy should be characterized by powerful strategies in order to ensure more veterans lead quality lives.

The fifth recommendation is to restructure the policy in such a way that it addresses the needs of every homeless elderly veteran. This means that veterans should be provided with houses and mental care services (Torres-Gil, 2014). This move will ensure that more elderly veterans should lead better lives. This kind of expansion will ensure the policy meets the unique needs of the targeted beneficiaries. Policymakers should focus on these issues in an attempt to promote the welfare of a population that has been ignored for very many years.

Economic, Political, and Social Implications Associated with the Issues

The VA pension policy has attracted a wide range of political, economic, and social issues. To begin with, the politics of the country have changed in such a way that the needs of women and children are taken seriously than ever before. Additionally, most of the successful laws and regulations have been focusing on the emerging needs of the middle class in the country (Perl et al., 2015). Consequently, the needs of the underprivileged such as the elderly have been ignored. Trump’s presidency appears to present numerous concerns that can disorient the future of the policy. The politics and policies implemented within the next few years will definitely impact the issues surrounding the VA program.

The United States is known to have one of the biggest budgets in the world. This means that the government has been funding a wide range of national functions and welfare programs. In 2015, the proposed budget for the Veteran Affairs (VA) program was around $158 billion (Wormer & Link, 2015). The program was also observed to target more veterans in the country. The country’s resources have therefore been overwhelmed than ever before. Statistics also indicate clearly that over 11 million U.S. veterans are still underserved (Wormer & Link, 2015). The current economic uncertainty in the country might have diverse impacts on the future of the VA policy.

The policy has also been associated with various social implications. For instance, the social developments experienced in the country can have detrimental implications on the future of many veterans. Some economic issues have been observed to impact this policy. This is the case because the policy has also been dictating the way financial resources are allocated in the country. The number of aging baby-boomers in need of pension support is on the rise (Torres-Gil, 2014). Many veterans struggle with their lives and find it hard to realize their economic goals. Family members and spouses of elderly veterans who die find it hard to lead quality lives. These gaps have continued to affect the welfare and wellbeing of many elderly veterans in the United States (Cozza et al., 2014).

Analysis of the Feasibility of the Issues Reaching the National Agenda

Kingdon Theory of Agenda Setting

To begin with, the Kingdon Theory of Agenda setting can be used to explain why the proposed issues in elderly veteran welfare policy have the potential to reach the national agenda. The first phase of the model is the problem stream or recognition. There are various indicators and gaps that show conclusively that the current problem affecting the elderly might get out of hand (Perl et al., 2015). The current indicators include the rate of mortality, worsening living standards, and the inability to access welfare resources. The number of homeless veterans has increased substantially within the past two decades (Baumgartner, 2016). A study focusing on the challenges facing many elderly veterans will definitely deliver useful information to support the identified policy agenda.

The theory goes further to outline a number of factors that can be used to explain why specific problems tend to fade. For instance, negative feedback might be received from the targeted veterans or beneficiaries. The gathered information might fail to support new ideas that have the potential to inform the policy agenda. This kind of scenario will definitely affect the adequacy of the proposed policy agenda (Howlett, McConnell, & Perl, 2014). However, the unique issues facing many veterans explain why the proposed agenda might not be ignored at this stage.

With the existing aspects of the policy, the proposed recommendations can be embraced in order to transform the situation. The involvement of different stakeholders, policymakers, politicians, and activists will ensure the agenda is promoted. Consensus building and agenda-setting should be embraced in order to encourage more politicians and stakeholders to support the proposal (Baumgartner, 2016). Finally, some aspects should be considered in order to ensure the proposed policy change is implemented successfully. For instance, brokerage and advocacy should be used adequately throughout the process. The right people should be identified to support the agenda. A new principal will be identified in order to implement the most viable changes that can transform the experiences of many elderly veterans in the country.

Values and Ideologies Capable of impacting the Issues

The success of the above issues depends on a number of aspects and issues. For instance, the recent past has been characterized by various sets of dual value systems inherent in public and societal institutions policy. The first one is that of equity and adequacy. This value stipulates that a minimum level of benefits will be available to beneficiaries based on need (Perl et al., 2015). The other focus is to have a fair return based on contribution through taxes. This value will definitely disorient the nature of the policy and affect the outcomes of many veterans.

The second value revolves around the public and private sectors (Torres-Gil, 2014). For instance, some trends have the capability to either support or derail every effort aimed at strengthening the VA pension policy. For instance, the economic recession is something that is expected to affect the role of different players in the public sector. In the recent past, social security has been privatized in the country (Perl et al., 2015).

The value of tradition and new innovative solutions is something that might dictate whether or not the issues raised by the pension policy reach the national agenda. This is the case because there is a conflict of interest between the future of social insurance and the reverse annuity mortgage program (RAM). The RAM has been implemented in such a way that “it provides a lump sum amount of money to elderly individuals who have long-term care needs for over a period of six years” (Stone, 2012, p. 58). While the RAM program is capable of supporting the needs of the elderly, the chances are high that the needs of more veterans in the country might be ignored.

With these issues are in place, it will be necessary for policymakers to identify specific recommendations to improve the living conditions of every veteran. With the provision of better living standards, proper medical cover, and support for disabled persons, the targeted individuals will be able to realize their objectives in life (Stone, 2012). Activists can consider the changes experienced in the country’s economy and propose adequate initiatives that can ensure the identified issues reach the national agenda. Consequently, the emerging needs of more veterans in the country will eventually be met.

References

Baumgartner, F. (2016). John Kingdon and the evolutionary approach to public policy agenda-setting. Web.

Boyer, D. (2016). The Washington Times. Web.

Cozza, S., Lerner, R., & Haskins, R. (2014). Military and veteran families and children: Policies and programs for health maintenance and positive development. Social Policy Report, 28(3), 1-30.

Gale, J. A., & Heady, H. R. (2013). Rural vets: Their barriers, problems, needs. Health Progress, 94(3), 49-52.

Howlett, M., McConnell, A., & Perl, A. (2014). Streams and stages: Reconciling Kingdom and policy process theory. European Journal of Political Research, 1(1), 1-16.

Perl, L., Bagalman, E., Fernandes-Alcantara, A., Heisler, E., McCallion, G., McCarthy, F.,…Sacco, L. (2015). Homelessness: Targeted federal programs and recent legislation. Congressional Research Service, 1(1), 1-29.

Sternberg, M., Wellnitz, A., Wright, B., Eicher-Miller, H., Topp, D., & Wadsworth, S. M.. (2016). Reaching rural veterans: engaging faith-based food pantries in serving low-income, homeless, and at-risk veterans in rural areas. Washington, DC: VA CFBNP.

Stone, A. (2012). Policy paradox and political reason. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

The history of aid and attendance assistance. (2017). Web.

Torres-Gil, F. (2014). The new aging: Politics and change in America. Westport, CT: Praeger.

U.S. Department of Defense. (n.d.). . Web.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2015a). Web.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2015b). Web.

Wormer, K., & Link, R. (2015). Social welfare policy for a sustainable future. New York, NY: Sage.

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