Reader has com­plaints about VA clinic

Rome News-Tribune - - EDITORIALS AND OPINION -

From the Chicago Tri­bune

Home own­er­ship is com­monly re­garded as a big part of the Amer­i­can Dream. But most adults know that pur­su­ing some dreams can be too ex­pen­sive to jus­tify. The mort­gage in­ter­est de­duc­tion, a sub­sidy to home­buy­ing, is one of those. Cur­tail­ing or abol­ish­ing it should a big part of any se­ri­ous tax re­form.

The real Amer­i­can dream is more about the broad pros­per­ity and am­ple op­por­tu­nity that de­rive from strong eco­nomic growth than it is about pur­chas­ing a house. Many Amer­i­cans rent their dwellings, and the hous­ing crash that helped cause the Great Re­ces­sion made them glad they did. Some home­own­ers ended up in fore­clo­sure. Many oth­ers found them­selves trapped in homes that were worth less than they owed.

The de­duc­tion en­cour­ages home own­er­ship by let­ting buy­ers deduct the in­ter­est they pay each year on their mort­gages. But at this point, econ­o­mists be­lieve, it doesn’t have much net ef­fect. That’s be­cause the tax break has in­flated home prices, largely if not en­tirely off­set­ting the ben­e­fit.

Econ­o­mists gen­er­ally op­pose the de­duc­tion, be­cause it gives Amer­i­cans an in­cen­tive to put their money into houses rather than other in­vest­ments that would yield higher re­turns. It en­cour­ages peo­ple to buy more ex­pen­sive homes and to take on more debt than they oth­er­wise would. It drains money from other sec­tors of the econ­omy and max­i­mizes the im­pact of hous­ing down­turns. Again, the crash of 2008 was an aw­ful les­son.

The de­duc­tion also robs the Trea­sury of tax rev­enue — a gaudy $70 bil­lion a year. This is money that could be used to fi­nance a sim­pler, more ef­fi­cient tax code with lower rates. If the de­duc­tion re­mains in­tact, any at­tempt at re­form will be lim­ited in scope and value.

Mid­dle-class home­own­ers may bri­dle at the idea of los­ing their big­gest tax break. But most Amer­i­cans get lit­tle or no ben­e­fit from the mort­gage in­ter­est de­duc­tion. About 70 per­cent of fil­ers can’t make use of it, be­cause they don’t item­ize their de­duc­tions.

Among those who do, the rich gain far more than the av­er­age per­son. “For house­holds mak­ing above $200,000 a year, the av­er­age ben­e­fit is $1,784 a year in tax sav­ings,” wrote Bruce Katz of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion in The Wall Street Journal. “For house­holds earn­ing $65,000 a year, the de­duc­tion gen­er­ally yields less than $200 a year in tax sav­ings.”

The most rea­son­able ar­gu­ment against scrap­ping it is that the change would prob­a­bly cause a one-time de­cline in home val­ues. For Amer­i­cans cur­rently priced out of the market, any re­duc­tion counts as a virtue, not a vice, be­cause it would make hous­ing more af­ford­able. But An­thony Ran­dazzo, direc­tor of eco­nomic re­search for the Rea­son Foun­da­tion, cal­cu­lates that “the di­rect in­flu­ence on pric­ing of homes should be min­i­mal.”

What would ex­ist­ing home­own­ers gain? They could ex­pect to get lower rates, as well as a sim­pler tax code. They would prob­a­bly also get a higher stan­dard de­duc­tion, which would make it prof­itable for many to dis­pense with the headache of item­iz­ing. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tax frame­work, which leaves the mort­gage in­ter­est de­duc­tion alone, would dou­ble the stan­dard de­duc­tion. But many mem­bers of Con­gress un­der­stand that lower tax rates would help Amer­i­cans more than this de­duc­tion does.

They would reap the big­gest po­ten­tial pay­off from a sim­pler, bet­ter tax code that pays the gov­ern­ment’s bills: a health­ier econ­omy that boosts cap­i­tal in­vest­ment and cre­ates more and bet­ter­pay­ing jobs. If Con­gress and the pres­i­dent can agree on a plan that will do all that, the mort­gage de­duc­tion won’t be missed.

Iam an 85-year-old man who al­legedly is re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal care through the Veter­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dur­ing the evening hours of March 21, when it was pour­ing rain, I suf­fered a fall in my kitchen, re­sult­ing in my sus­tain­ing three lac­er­a­tions to my right arm, which were bleed­ing. I wrapped my arm in a towel and drove to the clos­est hos­pi­tal, Floyd Med­i­cal Cen­ter, where I found there were some seven or eight peo­ple who were wait­ing to be seen.

When the po­lice of­fi­cer saw that my arm was bleed­ing, he took me straight to a room where I was seen by a doc­tor and three nurses. I had nu­mer­ous su­tures and then drove

Email let­ters to the editor to rome­new­stri­ or sub­mit them to the Rome News-Tri­bune, 305 E. Sixth Ave., Rome, GA 30162. home. I re­turned for re­moval of the su­tures and later re­ceived a hos­pi­tal bill for $3,665 which I sent in to the VA for pay­ment. In 30 days, I re­ceived a sec­ond bill, and in 60 days I re­ceived a third state­ment. I then tele­phoned the VA and was ad­vised that I was not to sub­mit the hos­pi­tal bill as the hos­pi­tal was to mail their bill in for pay­ment. I then called Floyd Med­i­cal Cen­ter and told them that.

On April 5, I un­der­went an eye exam at the Harbin Clinic Eye Cen­ter and took the pre­scrip­tion for glasses to the Rome Clinic and, as of this date, al­most six months later, I have yet to re­ceive any glasses. I wrote let­ters to the VA on May 19, June 1, July 17, Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, as well as made nu­mer­ous tele­phone calls, all to no avail. On Sept. 25, I re­ceived a tele­phone call from a woman at the Rome clinic stat­ing that they had a box which con­tained a pair of glasses but there was no name on the box. She said they would try to de­ter­mine as to whom these glasses be­longed and get back to me. Joseph Bod­kin


Let­ters to the editor: Ro­man Fo­rum, Post Of­fice Box 1633, Rome, GA 30162-1633 or email rome­new­stri­

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