In 1942 my dad was drafted into World War II as a Navy radioman. He served for four years and was honorably discharged. Then, in 1946, he served again in the Korean War, never once questioning his dedication and obligation to this great country.
Fast forward to 2016, my 95 year-old dad and tens of thousands of veterans from wars past and present struggle to navigate the quagmire of veteran health care. Today, it is estimated that more than 125,000 U.S. veterans are denied basic services including mental health services.
The health care system for veterans is bereft with cronyism, corruption, dysfunction and downright fraud. The President’s 2017 Budget for the Veterans Administration is $182.3 Billion. That’s Billion with a “B.” Do you think that with this amount of money, the VA could figure out how to provide appropriate care for most valued and worthwhile citizens. These proud women and men risked their lives every day so that we regular citizens can enjoy the freedoms which are the birth right of our country.
Here is a sobering statistic as you can see from the image thankfully provided by @MFHFirstAidUSA. TWENTY TWO veterans die by suicide each day.
The majority of these suicides can be prevented through early intervention.
Yet, these protectors of democracy are denied the respect and services that they deserve. This is mostly due to the ineptitude and bureaucracy of an organization that has largely been “un-supervised” and left to make up rules and arcane policies.
In 2014, CNN broke the story about how Veterans Affair managers in Phoenix were hiding the fact that as many as 1,600 sick veterans had to wait months to see a doctor. CNN had been reporting the sad truth that, across the country, veterans had to endure extended wait times to see a doctor. Sadly, many died while waiting for their appointments and subsequent care.
During this scandal, CNN was told by retired Dr. Sam Foote, that the Phoenix VA had two lists of veterans requiring care. The “official” list was the one presented to Washington and showed that veterans were receiving proper and timely care. The “secret” list was exposed to show that some vets had to wait up to a year to be seen. Documents were shredded to cover up this despicable practice.
Fortunately, my dad is in a “good” place. He’s never had to tap his veteran’s benefits, but clearly there are thousands of veterans who are not as fortunate. Let’s hope that the new administration takes a long hard look at how veterans are treated and ensure that their sacrifices, for the betterment of all our citizens, are recognized and rewarded with the health care that they deserve.