Instead of celebrating Armed Forces Day and thanking all the veterans who have served and continually to serve this country, the nation is shocked at the treatment of the nation’s veterans by the VA.
The United States Veterans Administration is reeling from a scandal in which VA hospitals across the country have been falsifying records by keeping two sets of books in which it had appeared to be reducing the wait times for veterans to see a doctor.
The scandal first came to light in Arizona when a whistleblower doctor who claimed that dozens of patients had died while they waited on a secret list waiting to see a doctor.
The Veterans Affairs Department is now being inundated by veterans not only from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a surge of veterans from the conflict in Vietnam. Many of these veterans are reaching the age of retirement and are requiring medical care due to advanced age, plus ailments associated with Agent Orange and other injuries.
Over the past few years the VA has seen its budget skyrocket since 2006 when its budget was $73.1 billion to its current budget of $153.8 billion. With this increased funding the VA has been unable to cope with increased demand.
Phillip Carter, an advocate for veterans issues at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, and also a former army officer, “I am amazed this is still happening, given the big increase in resources that the department has received.”
With this increase in funding why has VA not addressed many of the key problems and why has VA Director Eric Shinseki, who himself is a former Army General not addressed these problems when they came to light months ago.
Appearing before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday, “If these allegations are true, they are completely unacceptable–to Veterans, to me, and to our dedicated VHA employees,” Shinseki’s prepared opening statement says. If they are substantiated by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency’s independent watchdog, Shinseki says that “responsible and timely action will be taken.”
This did not alleviate the outrage felt on Capitol Hill as this scandal has broad bi-partisan backing with Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator for Connecticut, voicing outrage at this scandal.
Blumenthal remarked “solid evidence of wrongdoing within the VA system”, while his colleague from Washington Patty Murray told Mr Shinseki: “The standard practice at the VA seems to be to hide the truth.”
Senator John McCain of Arizona himself a decorated Vietnam veteran gave the GOP’s weekly radio address, commenting on the ongoing VA scandal by stating, ““That’s why I’m so deeply troubled by the recent allegations of gross mismanagement, fraud and neglect at a growing number of Veterans Administration medical centers across the country.”
Continuing, “It’s been more than a month since allegations that some 40 veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA were first made public. To date, the Obama Administration has failed to respond in an effective manner. This has created in our veterans’ community a crisis of confidence toward the VA – the very agency that was established to care for them.”
In his weekly radio address the president failed to mention the ongoing scandal at the VA. The president needs to take action as this scandal unlike the other has bi-partisan support and it reflects negatively on the president’s signature issue; of reforming the nation’s health care system.
As we celebrate Armed Forces Day this scandal brings a sobering reminder on how we take care of our veterans and if we can do it to them what does that mean for us.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]