Saturday, May 14, 2016

Op-Ed: How the VA devalues veterans By Cody McGregor Friday, May 13th 2016 As seen in the Dallas Morning News.

Op-Ed: How the VA devalues veterans

By Cody McGregor
Friday, May 13th 2016

As seen in the Dallas Morning News.

If you’ve fought to protect this country, you probably couldn’t be faulted for thinking this country isn’t quite as willing to do the same for you. After two full years, we’re still discovering shocking facts about how badly the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lets down those who need care. Recently published reports confirm that VA medical centers throughout Texas — including here in Fort Worth — used inappropriate scheduling practices that left veterans waiting too long for the treatments they needed.

Veterans’ biggest concern with the VA is whether it can be trusted with their lives. The short answer is no. This organization has fought to hide the truth and protect its image, even if it means letting veterans suffer and die.

And this is an ongoing trend in the way our country treats its heroes. Whether it’s unreliable, unaccountable healthcare or crippling debt that weakens the very national security we fought for, veterans’ sacrifices are constantly devalued.

After veterans died in Phoenix due to being put on secret waiting lists by the local VA center, similar allegations surfaced across the country. Yet internal investigations regarding how this happened are only just now being released to the public.

And that’s no thanks to the VA. It took Freedom of Information Act requests to get the VA to cough up their findings. That’s hardly the level of transparency veterans deserve, given the enormity of the VA’s failure.

The investigations confirm what we already knew: inappropriate scheduling practices were commonplace. The Fort Worth report by the VA Inspector Generals Office, for example, quotes staff who say that disregarding veterans’ desired appointment date was just “how things were done.”

As a consequence, veterans suffered.

Worse yet, an independent government watchdog is investigating the VA on the grounds that the investigations conducted in Texas by the VA Inspector General’s were “deficient and unreasonable.” In other words, there’s probably more tragedy buried beneath the surface.

It doesn’t take an extensive investigation, however, to show how badly VA care is deteriorating. One report conducted by independent consultants MITRE and Rand shows that care by VA hospitals is care mired in bureaucracy and inefficiency. And another government watchdog revealed last month that new VA patients nationwide now wait up to 71 days to see doctors.

As we’ve seen, quality and reliability in veterans’ care have deteriorated despite growth in the VA’s budget by roughly two-thirds since President Barack Obama’s first year in office. The VA is contributing to a rise in debt and wasteful or inefficient government spending.

Ultimately, the security veterans fought to protect is threatened by our nation’s massive debt. Earlier this year the national debt reached a record $19 trillion, which former defense officials adamantly warn will “undermine our economic growth, our military strength, and our global leadership.”

If the VA treated every one of its patients like the heroes we are, it would be worth every penny. But that’s far from the case.

One reason this happens is because Americans have assumed politicians will fix these problems on their own. That’s clearly not occurring. There’s no room for complacency—we must make sure those in power know that the poor treatment of veterans is the issue of our time.

Cody McGregor is a former army sniper and the national outreach director for Concerned Veterans for America.

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