New Castle News


May 28, 2014

Our Opinion: Medical treatment of nation’s veterans continues to fall short

NEW CASTLE — We’re hearing a lot lately about the way the Veterans Administration is treating medical patients.

Many of these comments are sincere concerns for the well-being of people who have served this country; others strike us as variations on Washington’s ongoing themes of the political gamesmanship.

But the real problems, which involve lengthy delays in the medical treatment of veterans — combined with efforts to cover up the situation — are nothing new. The inability of the VA to properly treat those in its care seems to be an ongoing failure.

So President Obama has announced there will be a renewed effort to explore what has gone wrong and rectify the situation. But why are we skeptical, and why do we expect more of the same down the road?

While we can’t claim to be experts on the internal operations of the VA, news reports suggest an organization that’s more interested in its own bureaucratic machinations than in serving the needs of its clients. It’s a structural issue and a management issue.

And it’s crying out for correction. Despite claims from Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, we see no sign of urgency in the response.

We presume an administration concerned about this issue would have acted well before being summoned before Congress to explain the situation. Instead, what we are observing is a reaction. That’s not leadership.

We now expect to see people fired within the VA. And quite possibly, some of them should be criminally prosecuted. If records are being falsified about treatment, and people are dying because of a lack of timely care, that ought to warrant some jail time.

Perhaps hauling a few VA officials away in handcuffs will send the message that such conduct is not to be tolerated. Maybe that’s what it will take to get the VA to look beyond its own bureaucratic trenches.

What’s unclear at this point is how extensive these problems are within the VA. Many veterans and the organizations that represent them strongly defend the existing system as one that serves the needs of veterans in a responsive fashion. That suggests the VA is not a complete disaster and better organization and discipline could go a long way.

Still, we find it strange that these sorts of reports keep coming out of the VA. America’s politicians are constantly paying lip service to the need to support and appreciate our nation’s veterans. Yet this is a fundamental area where those who have served can be aided by something more important than a parade or a medal.

But the embarrassments for the government persist. Will it be any different this time around?

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