Friday, October 24, 2014

VA scandal exposes suffering when politicians fail to act

5/23/2014

It seems fairly simple: Our nation shouldn’t go to war if it’s unable — or unwilling — to properly care for its soldiers when they return home.

A new outrage has reared its head just in time for Memorial Day — a solemn time when we honor the service and sacrifices made by late military members on behalf of our country. The Obama Administration has come under attack over startling shortcomings in the VA medical system, which cares for nearly 9 million U.S. veterans.

It seems fairly simple: Our nation shouldn’t go to war if it’s unable — or unwilling — to properly care for its soldiers when they return home.

A new outrage has reared its head just in time for Memorial Day — a solemn time when we honor the service and sacrifices made by late military members on behalf of our country. The Obama Administration has come under attack over startling shortcomings in the VA medical system, which cares for nearly 9 million U.S. veterans.

Not only have delays in medical care cost the lives of men and women who answered their nation’s call with the promise our country would return the favor, new allegations have emerged about falsifying records to hide those delays, as well as drug dealing and physical abuse of patients in VA facilities.

That’s “just the tip of the iceberg,” U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, who heads the House Veterans Affairs panel, told CNN Thursday. “We’ve received some information and some tips that will make what has already come look like kindergarten stuff.”

The poor treatment of our nation’s veterans is a lightning rod amid a contentious election year, uniting a wide swath of Americans behind their disgust.

“If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period,” President Obama said this week.

Somehow the president’s words ring hollow. Media reports indicate Obama was informed about the VA’s problems in 2008.

Recall Obama’s similar responses to the Fast and the Furious gunwalking scandal, the Internal Revenue Services’ targeting of conservatives and revelations about the White House’s expanded domestic spying programs. He seems to be getting good at feigning ignorance and surprise, then outrage, then claiming Republicans created the situation to hurt him politically. (And then there’s the popular blame-Bush tactic — “He did it first!”)

Lacking, of course, is action — you know, what we demand of our soldiers when we send them off to fight and die in defense of our country ... or at least its oil interests.

Numerous advocacy groups and lawmakers — including U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas — have urged the firing or resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Obama, so far, has resisted such calls (but we all should remember how Kathleen Sebelius eventually was unceremoniously allowed to take the fall for problems associated with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare ... a program Democrats claimed could work, citing the government’s “proven” success with the ever-efficient VA system).

Other members of Congress — including U.S. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas — are pushing legislation that would make it easier to fire federal workers in the VA system and hold officials accountable for their failings. The aim? “To put this scandal behind us and provide the highest quality care to our nation’s heroes,” Jenkins said. The effort, unfortunately, is being blocked in the Democrat-led Senate, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, Pat Roberts — the three-term U.S. senator who was instrumental in sending young Kansas men and women to war in Iraq — has been strangely silent about the recent VA uproar; perhaps he’s too preoccupied by his primary challenger and efforts to keep himself off the GOP ballot in the Sunflower State. Roberts most recent campaign commercial trumpets his status as U.S. Marine Corps veteran and staunch conservative, but curiously fails to mention anything about veterans dying as they wait for their promised health care — care they need because people like Roberts sent them to the battlefield.

The sad truth is the president — as well as lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle (even some of those screaming the loudest) — have known about the problems at the VA for years. And for whatever reason, they’ve ignored the inconvenient details about what’s really going on. We not only should hold the VA accountable, but also those who turned a blind eye.

But first, we need action. We need to keep our word. We need change.

If there’s a silver lining to the VA scandal, it’s that Republicans, Democrats, independents and most everyone in between agree: Our veterans deserve better.

Tommy Felts,

managing editor

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