Next Monday is Memorial Day. A day to honor those that gave their lives in service to our nation. Today I’m going to address the issue of the VA scandal – where men and women are losing their lives due to political ineptitude and greed. As was exposed in the news recently, veterans are dying so that political appointees and civil servants (not very serving in my opinion) can earn bonuses by denying treatment to our brothers and sisters who have served in the military. People who pledged to lay down their lives for us by their oath of office.
I’ll clear the decks with a few facts first: I am a disabled veteran. Crunched parts, bad hearing, all in all, pretty well off compared to many. My wife is a disabled veteran as well. I have received treatment at the VA over the years. Some of it excellent, some of it poor. Same goes for my wife.
Most of the caregivers at the VA are solidly in the corner of the veteran in every way. Dedicated doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers who work very hard to accord proper respect and care to their patients. The majority of the staff at the hospitals are hard working stiffs who clean floors, do laundry, plow the parking lots, and serve the food to the best of their ability. God bless them, they make it all possible.
Those are not the people I’m going after today. I am calling out John Shinseki, all of the higher echelon administrators, and any of the cowards who knew these waiting lists existed and did nothing. I’m also calling out the leadership of this organization that had the gall to spend money on refurbishing offices and holding conferences when vets couldn’t get the care they needed upon returning from active duty overseas. I’ll throw in the national leadership, including the members of Congress (especially the Senate), who have taken us for granted all of my life, but most especially the last few years.
It’s all good when you promise to clear backlogs and provide treatment as a part of your campaign promises. It’s all evil when it’s just window dressing and platitudes designed only to garner votes. This isn’t a road project in some forsaken part of a rural state. This, dear reader, is the well being of a member of our armed forces who is being left to fend for themselves when we have a moral obligation to take care of them.
There is no other group in this country that has an actual entitlement to government services and pay outside of veterans. Let me repeat that for the stubborn: only veterans are entitled to their medical care and disability pay from the federal government. It’s simple: all of us signed up to serve, or were drafted, based on a few simple things, among them the promise that if we were injured (physically or mentally) we’d be taken care of by the government; that our educational benefits (spelled out very clearly when you join the military) are held holy and are a part of the contract; and that you will be buried with your brothers and sisters if you so wish at the end of your life.
The Obama administration, with the complicity of the Congress, has turned its back on the veteran. We have young men and women living at the edge of society who are unable to get the treatment and benefits that they have earned because they’re not a favored class outside of elections. We have a VA administrator and a president, both of whom are “Mad as hell” but who won’t fire people, investigate properly, sweep things clean, or resign. What exactly does “I take full responsibility” mean if you don’t do anything afterwards?
This is not some idle, speculative, conversation I’m having inside of my own fevered head. Try to get an appointment at the VA in a timely fashion – it probably won’t happen. Some clinics can do it, most can’t. I know one veteran who’s in great pain but the next open appointment they can get for treatment is thirty days out. I see the frustration with the bureaucracy when I go to the hospital. I’ve experienced it myself in such simple things as applying for a new identification card – I got it, but it was far from a clear or easy process, and the level of staff participation in quelling our unrest was minimal.
Most appalling, the VA has nowhere near enough psychiatric workers to deal with the problems that are unique to veterans. The waiting list is long to get this help. It’s long to get in the door to begin with, but to get a regular, therapeutically needed, appointment in the mental health services is almost impossible at some facilities. Translation: human misery, suicide, destroyed families in abundance.
I’ve learned a lot of things about the VA over the last twenty years. They need to learn a few things as well. I’ll list some of them for all who care to see what I mean. Once you’re done reading this list, please take the time to call your representatives (This handy little link takes you to a web page with all the information you desire) and express your outrage at how our veterans are being treated. It’s shameful.
Lesson One: It’s a bad thing to mess with people who are trained to use weapons and kill. Seriously, pick some other group to mistreat – this bunch can strike back if you anger them, and they know how to do it – you gave them the training. Wander in to the local Legion club tonight and bring up this issue. It might scare you.
Lesson Two: The difference between bureaucratic ineptitude and callous indifference is how bad you feel at the end of the transaction. Ineptitude, in an era when the unemployment level is so high, is not acceptable. Get out the broom, clean the joint out and get employees who care.
Lesson Three: Talking to veterans helps to understand veterans. They are not like any/all other groups. Special culture, special wants and needs, special treatment required. Farming them out to other hospitals on a permanent basis is a bad idea. See lesson Four.
Lesson Four: The federal government spends more money on wasted research and projects than we can even fathom. Every one of us has heard of millions spent on research into such things as why drunks solicit prostitutes in Las Vegas, or some such nonsense. Take that money and spend it to outsource the urgent needs of our wounded and ill vets.
There is a caveat to this: it cannot be a political boondoggle like the Obamacare navigators, website builders, and data expeditors. Every company that does this work must be veteran owned, a United States company. Period. This is not a negotiable item. I’m so disgusted with, and tired of, our political class turning any kind of disaster into money in their pockets that I might start screaming and not stop for a week. If they can’t find companies to do this in about 48 hours, give the American Legion, The Disabled American Veterans, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the Paralyzed Veterans of America a call – I’m sure they can recommend someone reputable. Whoever is chosen, they must immediately clear the backlog of claims paperwork (a reasonable time would be 60 days) and get veterans in for treatment. This does not mean that adjudication of the claims needs to be farmed out, just getting the darned paperwork done and some provisional treatment and payment rolling.
It does not matter, in my less than humble opinion, if the injury/illness/psychiatric issue is service connected at this point. If the person is a verifiable veteran, start the treatment. Once their claim is adjudicated then either continue the treatment or end the treatment. We have screwed around so long, and denied our vets treatment and monetary payment far past what’s reasonable. The same goes with disability payments. Put a hold on paying any new claims until they are adjudicated, but any claim already submitted should be paid right now. People are homeless and hungry as a result of this debacle. Yes, we will pay out some fraudulent claims. But that beats veterans killing themselves in poverty because their Uncle turned his back on them. I’d rather waste a few bucks on my vets than on the scammers that usually get the cash.
Once the paperwork is done, appoint a council of veterans to adjudicate the backlogs of cases in conjunction with the VA. Get their help and sort this mess out.
I’d also like to give a leadership lesson while I’m at it, so pay attention in Washington. First, Shinseki’s most notable accomplishment as an officer was making sure that the United States Army spent a bucket of money on berets. Making that the standard headgear was the equivalent of giving every kid a trophy at the end of the game, win-lose-or-draw. It annoyed the elite units. To this day I won’t wear a beret because I didn’t earn it. That includes red ones for Santa. Shinseki said that we were such a great military that all of our soldiers were elite (or, words to that effect, see the hilarious press release .) So, Eric needs to go. He’s had 5 years to fix the VA and hasn’t really done a whole lot that I can see.
Next leadership lesson is for the President. I realize that I was just a silly little E-5, CTI2, Non-commissioned officer, not a lofty big shot with a fancy college degree – wait, I’ve got a couple of those. I guess I do have more time in leadership positions than the administration. Telling me that you’re mad as hell through leaks from your aides means nothing. Blah, Blah, Blah. Get off the dime and do some of the heavy lifting or you’re as useless as the beanie giver Shinseki. So, with all due respect, Sir, here’s how you handle it (feel free to quote me and use this verbatim):
My fellow Americans, I am disgusted with the deception and degradation heaped upon our veterans. I have, as of noon today, terminated all political appointees involved in this scandal, beginning with Eric Shinseki and all of the heads of VA offices where these allegations have been lodged. They are all appointees; none has a right to a job. All civil servants involved in the scandal have been placed on paid leave until this is sorted out. All who are found to have broken the law, or violated the trust of our military and veterans, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. To this end, I have engaged a selection of investigators from the financial fraud unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to work under a special prosecutor. This prosecutor is a decorated veteran and attorney and will provide a public report daily on a new website set up solely for this purpose. He will answer to the commission I will describe in a moment.
Because I take this so seriously, I am issuing the following Executive Order, effective immediately:
All state dinners, travel, entertainment events, and celebrations will be suspended at the Cabinet level, including the White House and the Office of The Vice President, until the entire backlog of Veteran’s Administration claims is adjudicated. Once the backlog is cleared, normal events may resume. Until that time, all of the focus will be on doing the right thing for our warriors. There will be no exceptions.
I will personally bring to you, each Saturday, an update on the number of cases left unresolved and what we have done in the previous week to take care of the situation. I will be staying here, in the White House, until this is done. I am cancelling all family travel as well: Michelle and the girls will be working with homeless veterans in the Washington area as an expression of our desire to make this right. We cannot continue to live lives of luxury while a single wounded service member is not taken care of because of our ineptitude.
A commission of representatives selected by the American Legion, The VFW, and the Wounded Warrior Project will be brought in for meetings in the White House beginning the day after tomorrow until we can find solutions to this problem. We will meet every day until they are satisfied with the government’s progress. The sessions will be broadcast live on the web through the whitehouse.gov website and on C-span if they wish to pick up our feed.
I apologize, and I am ashamed, that this got so out of control. I will make it right to the people who pledged their lives to this country, so help me, God. If not, I will resign the presidency at the end of six months. It is only right that we pursue this vigorously. It is not as if we didn’t know these good people were coming home from war and would need this treatment. It is especially heinous that we have broken our promises to people of many generations, veterans who have rushed the gates of hell and defended our liberty, in order that a greedy few might receive a bonus.
There you go, Mr. President. The ball’s in your court. Do the right thing and do it now.