On Thursday, April 27th, U.S. veterans will at long last witness progress within the besieged Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), as President Trump is scheduled to ink the latest executive order establishing a necessitated Office of Accountability and whistleblower protection within the shambolic department.
America, without hesitation and with national pride, has taken responsibility for the welfare of veterans and their families for almost four centuries.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth, after finding themselves at war with the Pequot tribes, passed the first law pledging injured or disabled soldiers would be cared for by the Colony. During the Revolutionary War, pensions were added as enlistment benefits for surviving veterans, and with each aggression toward America, on her land, or threat to liberty abroad, this grateful nation repays her protectors and their families with respect and care–or so we assumed. Sadly, the opposite would be found true.
For the reader that may need a brief refresher course on one of the most repulsive scandals of the Obama administration, the culture and procedures of the government agency came under fire in 2013 when an emergency room physician, Dr. Katherine Mitchell, filed a complaint about dangerous wait times and conditions at the Carl T. Hayden Medical Center in Phoenix. Mitchell brought her concerns to Senator John McCain (R-AZ), yet somehow the complaint was rerouted to Congressional and Legislative Affairs, and Mitchell was booted out of the inner circle with an extended stay in perpetual administrative leave status. It was the beginning of the end for the deadly games perpetrated by the VA muckety- mucks.
Over several months, internal investigations revealed the falsifying of records (most critical of all, patient wait times) to reflect great successes within the organization. Heartbreaking accounts of veterans dying in pain before they could be seen by physicians at VA medical centers across the country, reckless prescribing of dangerous opioids resulting in addiction and death—all disregarded by executives and staff of the VA so they might line their pockets. In 2014 alone, $142 million dollars was paid in bonuses to certain staff and administrators for fabricating successes in performance goals. A detailed account of widespread corruption within the ranks can be found here.
Although then President Obama proclaimed he “would not stand” for misconduct within the department, few people lost their positions and the rush to investigate by the administration was lackluster at best. Under heavy public pressure, Obama’s Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Eric Shinseki finally resigned his position in May of 2014, and Obama “with considerable regret” accepted. Well, someone had to take a hit for the team.
Now we have a new leader who seems genuine in seeking to rectify the damage done and perhaps turn this immensely important agency into one that our veterans truly deserve. With the new office established as a conduit to expediency rooting out problem processes and employees, and safeguarding those who would put their position and career on the line for our veterans, is just a first step. But it’s a positive step in the right direction.
An official budget document, produced and distributed by the VA states, “(VA) is charged with fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise.” The bloody and devastating Civil War had concluded, and Lincoln had been elected to his second term. On March 4, 1865, During his second Inaugural address, President Lincoln concluded his speech with the following passage:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
That was Lincoln’s pledge to veterans and their families. America is watching, President Trump, and we will hold you and the VA to that promise.