There are plenty of veterans such as myself who see President Obama’s public reaction to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs as both political theater and a desperate attempt to cover his posterior.
First of all, his reaction time to reports of poor service and long wait times at VA facilities was lacking, considering that the allegations slowly rolled out over months and were cited by veterans organizations. It was already far too late when the President finally acknowledged the problem and dispatched a political deputy to fix the problems.
What makes matters worse is that the Bush Administration warned about problems at the VA during the presidential transition and after Obama already pledged to take care of it.
Obama campaigned for the White House on a pledge to fix government infrastructure in places such as VA hospitals. Obama rammed stimulus spending, Dodd-Frank banking regulation and ObamaCare through Congress. He never championed cutting massive red tape or change government culture that now shares the blame for the potential deaths of more than 1,000 veterans and for countless others waiting for or missing out on vital care because of VA neglect.
As National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote in Politico: “If six years into his presidency he has yet to fix the VA he promised to fix before he took office, that’s either an indictment of his presidency or the liberal vision of government or both.”
I don’t put much faith in Obama’s dispatching of troubleshooters to try to get to the bottom of the VA’s problems. It seems pretty clear that nothing was done to fix the problems that existed when he took office. And it’s unlikely these troubles will end with the Obama Administration.
Many presidencies and Congresses, under the control of both political parties, mismanaged the plight of veterans seeking promised medical benefits. What lawmakers seem to fail to understand is that problems such as those at the VA are inherent in a government-controlled, socialistic health care scheme.
We veterans are also intelligent enough to realize the uncovered incompetence is not limited to just a few hospitals known about right now. The suspect in the tragic Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. last year is just one example of that. He visited VA facilities for care, but he was never properly diagnosed and was told to follow up with his primary care doctor. In the meantime, he snapped and innocent people died. Another veteran waited eight years to be diagnosed with PTSD.
It’s also important to now ask how the federal government can be expected to oversee the health care of 330 million Americans when it has failed to provide the same — or less — for America’s military veterans. We are now painfully aware that veterans are facing massive delays, with some of them apparently dying while waiting for care.
It’s particularly upsetting to hear that returning veterans who heroically served our nation and fought the Global War on Terror nay now be receiving substandard care while terrorist suspects imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay might be receiving comparatively better care.
To add insult to injury, there were lawmakers willing to fight proposed legislation to hold VA officials accountable for problems in providing satisfactory care. It is a slap in the face to veterans and their families for our government to provide bonuses to some of the same officials who allegedly cooked the books and kicked veterans’ concerns under the table as they misled lawmakers and public into believing they were providing promised benefits to those who served.
The time for political double-speak from the government has long since passed. It’s time to hold the VA — and bureaucrats in general — accountable for dismal service.
Kevin Martin is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to Project21@natioanlcenter.org.