It’s Time We Have a Serious Conversation About the VA
By RU Twisted
This week the American Legion, for the first time in over 50 years, asked for the resignation of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Eric Shinseki—a friend to every black beret-sporting soldier in the US Army—as head of the VA is ultimately responsible for its actions and has been called upon to recognize the consequences of the recent deplorable actions by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In light of these events—specifically a story from Phoenix regarding the Veterans health care system there and its rather shady actions—I feel it is important to open up a dialogue regarding the VA; what they do right, what they do wrong, and what we can do as a community to make it better.
The simple fact is that nearly everyone I know—which means a great many of the people you all know—has a horror story regarding the VA. Injured Vets getting lost in the system; checks not coming through; claims taking years to be processed; claims being processed incorrectly—or sometimes even “lost”; the list goes on.
The recent stories coming out of Phoenix and Fort Collins VA clinics show just how bad this can get. Vets that were part of the Phoenix branch of the VA were apparently put on a “secret list” that was allegedly designed to hide the fact that it was taking over six months to get an appointment with an actual doctor. It is now estimated that at least forty of these Veterans died while waiting for these appointments.
It is easy to read about that and stories like it and become absolutely incensed—to have the blood come to a full boil while screaming obscenities at your computer. I know because I’ve done it more than once.
But that doesn’t change the facts and it doesn’t change the situation. The stories of financial abuse within the VA; of gross negligence on behalf of their upper management; and the countless anecdotes of Veterans who have been neglected just continue. My anger or yours does not stop them.
Nor does that anger allow for some positives to be seen. For example, yours truly made it all the way through his bachelor’s degree without even the slightest snags in GI Bill funding, as have many others. I used a VA home loan with very little difficulty, as have thousands of Veterans before and after me. The Veteran’s Hospital in my own hometown has helped educate numerous resident student physicians on their way to graduation from medical school, opening up their eyes to the Veteran community—seeing things they otherwise never would have.
Simply saying “the VA sucks!” ignores those realities. It fails to acknowledge the benefits for thousands that have helped in the fields of education, home ownership, and medicine just to name a few. We cannot as a community neglect those facts and expect to be taken seriously.
Yet these positives do not exonerate them from the egregious abuses of the Department’s bureaucratic mess. Medical negligence, secret lists, and the shredding of evidence doesn’t get a magical free pass because the VA has held good to their promise on most individual’s GI Bill payments.
Nearly every one of you has a story about the VA. For most of you it probably falls into the category of a disability rating getting rubber-stamped with “denied” despite numerous doctors siding with you—the desk-pushers who review case files apparently having much more medical expertise than the decades of training behind all those physicians who actually examined you.
Sadly, these stories don’t solve anything. We don’t gain a solution by finding out how many Veterans have been left hanging out to dry by the VA—we only get pissed off and want to burn it all to the ground.
And let’s face it—though everyone loves a little conflagration now and then, it just adds to the mess in the long run.
So here I sit, asking the honest question: what do we do? Can we fix it? Is the Veteran community capable of righting these wrongs, or is this an unwinnable fight?
I don’t normally like to write articles that leave with a question unanswered. I much prefer to offer solutions and then get told I’m wrong/stupid/fat/ugly for suggesting it. This topic is, however, a big one that needs a lot of input from the whole community. It deserves to be honestly approached and dissected for the better of each man and woman who served their country.
What say you?