I would like to respond to the op-ed piece by Thomas Turnage, administrator of veterans' affairs {Dec. 23}. As the daughter of a disabled veteran, I have been aware of the Veterans Administration's mission since my youth. I am not convinced that as an agency it has fulfilled its mission, nor am I sure how it would all of a sudden succeed if given Cabinet status.

The quality of care veterans currently receive is suspect if only because the sprawling bureaucracy that administers it is intimidating to the lone patient who enters the door. Long waits and a never-ending line of staff members whose faces change upon each visit characterize a routine visit to the hospital. Can Mr. Turnage enlighten us with specifics about how the "evolution of national health care policy needs will profit from the VA's presence in the Cabinet"?

Joining the resources of the VA with the resources of the Department of Health and Human Services seems a more viable solution, especially in AIDS research. Why not concentrate all the government's resources in one effort? The aging and health care needs of veterans are not separate from the aging and health care needs of other older Americans. Just because my mother contributed to the war effort at home, she is not less entitled to national resources for health care. There are men who served in the Armed Forces but never saw combat as my father did. Are these men entitled to VA health care in their old age and my mother not? Aren't veterans going to collect Social Security too?

Why should the Cabinet include a spokesman for 79.3 million veterans but not a spokesman for all aging Americans and all the children of those veterans? National policy has an impact on their lives too. Where are their federal resources?

My father served in the Armed Forces to defend those freedoms that all Americans enjoy even though he never had a voice in the "most significant council of the federal government" -- the Cabinet. He loves his country and understands the duty that comes with being a U.S. citizen. He sacrificed his limbs so all Americans could have the opportunity to discuss and influence national policy -- including his daughter. I ask Mr. Turnage: Would his voice now make a difference in preventing war? DIANE LEWIS Arlington