In just a month, we’ve heard many tragic stories about veterans seeking care from Veterans Affairs. The first happened in November, when a young Iowa veteran committed suicide after he was told he had to wait 5 to 6 weeks for an appointment for severe headaches, which he feared were related to a previous tumor.
Elsewhere, a veteran in an Oklahoma VA hospital died and maggots were found in his wounds after the family begged for his bandages to be changed. Then, another veteran died in a Florida VA hospital and his body was left in a shower room for 9 hours to decompose. Yet the employees tried to cover up the egregious mistake. These incidents are just three, but every month, there are others just like them.
The Department of Veterans Affairs claims it’s an equal opportunity provider. The veteran for this great nation is young, old, male, female, every race and every religion. And all too often they are equally denied the adequate healthcare they earned serving this great nation.
We’ve elected Donald J. Trump to drain the swamp, and the one group yelling out louder than ever before are the 22.5 million veterans in this nation. Yet most of those veterans don’t use the medical services for the VA. Quite simply, why would they use a medical system continually in the news month after month with another failure?
However, nine million veterans do use the medical care provided by the VA often because it’s their only option. They deserve to have the confidence in the government healthcare they must use as do most Americans have when they step into a private hospital.
The VA is the largest provider of medical care in the nation. Many of their facilities, but not all, are failing to provide the care our veterans need. Often veterans wait months for their claims for their disability rating to be assigned upon exiting the military. We’ve heard about waiting months just to get a medical appointment – many veterans have even died waiting.
This summer we heard reports of vermin infestation overrunning the kitchen of a suburban Chicago Veterans Affairs hospital. It was so severe, cockroaches routinely crawl across countertops as cooks prepare meals. Whistleblowers reported that the insects found their way into patients’ food.
So what is the answer?
We must ensure that senior management is held accountable for corruption, mismanagement, and even the deaths that have resulted from inadequate care. President Donald Trump will have a battle because the AFGE union protects the senior executives instead of the veteran. Despite numerous pieces of legislation passing that were supposed to resolve many of these concerns, there are still gaps and “work-arounds” where employees have managed to escape accountability or have even resigned quietly before legal action is taken. Even with the Veterans Choice Program, which is supposed to allow veterans to use outside care if they aren’t within 40 miles of a VA facility, there are reports that veterans are frustrated with the paperwork to enter the program and many seeing unpaid bills from the VA show up on their credit report.
We must put accountability back into government. And if it doesn’t happen, well, in four years, the veterans who’ve pledged their loyalty will not return to vote for the man who promised drain the swamp and fix corruption when he got to Washington, DC.
[Note: This article was written by London Center for Policy Research Senior Fellow Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, U. S. Marine Corps (ret)]