On Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, the nation stopped to remember those that have given all for their nation. None, who can understand the connection of freedom in America and the men and women of the Armed Forces that enable those freedoms to exist, can dispute the importance of sacrifices made at home and abroad. Even as the nation celebrates, the watchful eye and vigilant protection of the Armed Forces continue their duty without pause, many in harm’s way.
It is because of this essential purpose, and the need to come together as a single unified nation, that in 1868 General Order #11 was issued to “…decorate the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country…” by General John Logan. In the present day, President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. In his national address, President Obama stated that,
“Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings. It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay. By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice.”
But a year after the VA Scandal, in which no less than 35 veterans died due to a lack of medical care and the machinations of red tape trickery, the question must be asked if we are repaying the sacrifice? Has the nation, and the Government bureaucracy, corrected the errors and made amends to those who have given so much. Are we honoring the memory of those that have died, and those that in many ways still suffer, with the changes made since 2014?
In many ways the answer is no. Just looking back to February 2015, when VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald made false testimony on national television (as verified by Politifact) and engendered this response from Rep. Mike Coffman of CO while speaking before congress,
“I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has… And I’ve never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list. “
How inept and corrupt is the VA? 42,286 bonuses were paid in 2014, several to key figures in the VA Scandal. 8 people were fired as a result of the deaths of our veterans. Billions are being misspent and wasted in VA building projects across the nation. But that, sadly is not the least nor the full breath of the issue.
In Georgia, Florida, and Wisconsin (at least) rampant over-prescriptions of drugs are being administered. In Florida and Alabama our veterans are being misdiagnosed. Incredibly, in Iowa, our veterans have been subjected to medical research, without their knowledge or consent. An act more akin to a movie plot of some mad scientist, than the measured and honorable repayment of the greatest debt that America owes. Even so, these still are not the full measure of the problems on-going in the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Secretary McDonald stated on August 26, 2014,
“There’s no higher calling in life than serving Veterans. I see leadership of VA as an opportunity to improve the lives of men and women I care deeply about.”
Where is that leadership? Where is that improvement? It’s not to say that the VA is not helping tens of thousands of veterans. The thousands of VA employees are dedicated and overwhelmingly try to help our veterans. Over the decades, the VA has had many innovations and successes. Yet, what has improved in the past 10 years? 5 years? In even the past year since the scandal?
It is not enough for the Government to throw money at the problems of the VA. It is not enough for the President, and politicians in both Parties, to make promises and forced attrition. Significant, continuous, and real change is needed. We as a nation have an obligation to do nothing less. It is truly the cost of our blessings, and the path to being worthy of what has been given.
The headlines from 2014 have faded in the minds of the masses. The major media have long since moved onto the next news cycle. Our veterans remain, as do the gravestones for those that gave more than their all. A day off from work, a few speeches on national TV, and a few timely arguments in Congress is petty restitution.