In January of 2014, CNN reported that at least 19 veterans had died because of delays in diagnosis and treatment at VA hospitals. In January of 2013 I posted a blog here about the VA’s backlog of claims and the fact that, according to The Bay Citizen, retroactive benefits had been paid to nearly 19,500 veterans who died waiting. Small comfort for their loved ones, those retroactive benefits.
While these stories are not identical, who’s in a position to argue that point to a veteran who’s depending on the VA for medical care? Seems to me it doesn’t matter whether that vet is just back from deployment in Afghanistan or a veteran of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia or Iraq. In fact, any veteran who served here or abroad.
You have to acknowledge that the word is getting out there. Broadcast and online journalists continue to bring this issue to our attention; veterans service organizations like the National Veterans Foundation are also publicizing the issue. There are hearings, public dialogs, blog postings and feature articles about the problem. But, as we can see, not much action. Not enough to give us the sense of any real progress.
Under siege (which is most of the time), the VA tends to adopt a defensive position or clam up totally, which only increases the clamor for heads to roll, for accountability. Maybe we should try that. It seems to work in business. Who are we protecting by not applying accountability? Our veterans? I don’t think so.
If you watched the recent State of the Union message, you got to see the president honor Staff Sgt. Cory Remsburg, a heroic Army Ranger who was nearly killed by an IED explosion in October, on his tenth deployment in Afghanistan. Did you catch that? Tenth. He stood for a standing ovation that lasted over two minutes. We all respond to that kind of valor and sacrifice.
But what about the invisible vets? The chronic homeless, the vets trying to navigate the transition back into the civilian world, the vets whose PTSD symptoms are reactivated by news stories and images.
Accountability at the VA might be an answer. So is less talk. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? Less talk. More action. Maybe a way to do that is to increase collaboration among agencies that work with veterans, whether governmental, non-profit, private or faith-based. More studies or news stories don’t really affect change. They seem to provide a loop of… well, talking. That’s the loop of those two news stories I opened with. A year went by between them.
I’m just saying, you and I can’t be the only ones out here that are concerned. Because you’re concerned about our veterans too, right? Prove it. Speak up.