It would be interesting to know how many speakers at Memorial Day ceremonies across this country mentioned the explosive news about how some veterans of our wars have died while waiting endlessly for treatments.
That tragic, unforgivable fact was surely an elephant in the room at many of the ceremonies. The disgrace was only underlined by all the heartfelt tributes to veterans and how much they deserve our undying gratitude.
The gratitude should include the very best possible post-service medical and psychological care. Otherwise, all of the tributes and thanks amount to nothing much more than lip service.
The top management in the Phoenix, Ariz. Veterans Affairs Health Care system devised an elaborate scheme to hide the fact 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait for months even to just consult with a doctor. At least 40 veterans died while patiently waiting for care.
The jerks who ran that center had two lists: a fake waiting list designed to show watchdogs in Washington, D.C. that all was going just fine; and a real waiting list that shows waiting times can easily last more than a year.
The Veterans Administration mandates patients must be seen in a timely manner, from 14 to 30 days. Obviously, some top officials, at least in Phoenix, not only scoffed at that mandate; they developed an elaborate system to sabotage it. Other stories about inexcusably long waits – and deaths – are surfacing from other areas of the country, and it is the most disturbing news. Disturbing that these men and women, who sacrificed so much, are treated with such dismissive carelessness. There is absolutely no excuse for it.
So far, here in Minnesota, our VA centers have received quite good marks. However, who is to say with certainty there are no schemes or “secret” waiting lists going on? We also know most veterans have had many good things to say about the treatment they’ve received at centers. However, even one incident of cruel waiting and/or death is one too many. We wonder about the high rate of suicides among veterans. How many of those might have been prevented with prompt professional attention rather than interminable waits?
It’s with such patriotic hoopla we send men and women off to war, some of them wars that are unpopular and/or unwise. How easy it is to forget them when the hoopla dies down, when the sick and wounded return, many of them living in a bleak, lonely world of their own, often without jobs or any kind of trusting support system. It’s nothing less than a national disgrace.
The president should appoint a commission and hold hearings that could root out every last vestige of this kind of cruel and rampant corruption. Those who indulge in it should be fired and even arrested and tried before a court of law. Such abuse is downright criminal.
During our Memorial Day ceremonies, if we all truly mean our rhetorical tributes and thanks, we will pressure our leaders to make sure the realities of care for veterans match our verbal bouquets. To do anything less would make hypocrites of us all.