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Veterans suffer in blame game

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POSTED May 31, 2014 1:09 a.m.

Around 10 years ago – I believe that time is accurate, because as I grow older, time speeds up immensely – I took my mother to the Veteran’s Administration outpatient clinic in Redding for an appointment. I remember looking at the clientele in the waiting room thinking how when the waves of post-war casualties from our then- (and now-) current conflict starting hitting the VA system how much it would be overrun and over-burdened. 

I could not have hit the nail more square on the head than I did with that prediction. And as so often happens when stuff hits the fan, it is the person standing in front of the fan that gets all messy rather than the culprit who soiled the fan in the first place. And the person standing in front of the fan on Friday was Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseski. 

The four-star general fell on his sword and resigned amid the growing medical scandal at the VA. But he is neither the villain nor the culprit here. Where are the architects of the fiasco in Iraq or the misdirection in Afghanistan? They are living comfortably on their laurels – and our dime – while the fallout from their ego stroking is finally rearing its ugly head.

It is sad enough that there was no exit strategy for our incursion into the desert – but there was no strategy for after the exit, either. The limits of the VA system has always been taxed – what person in their right mind would embark on a more-than-a-decade multi-front war without contemplating how to handle the fallout? 

 But as so often happens in Washington, a scapegoat is nailed while the architect escapes unscathed, and Shinseki is now the dictionary definition of a scapegoat. You can figure out who the architects are.

My mother was a World War II Army nurse and while on jury duty in her later years her jury foreman happened to work for the VA and when hearing my mom complain about the high costs of her medication, he suggested to her that she come to see him and get signed up for VA health benefits. 

Sign up she did and for the remaining years of her life she received most of her health care through the VA, including the final 10 days of her life at the VA hospital in Sacramento. 

As with any health-care system, there will be hiccups, but I can say that for the most part her care through the VA was exemplary. My mother could be gruff and contrary at times, but the staff during her last hospital stay responded with professionalism and kindness.

While “First do no harm,” does not appear in the Hippocratic Oath as it is often said to, it is the philosophy a quality health-care provider will adopt. Sadly, the same cannot be said of politicians. When our current president was elected the public stated mission of the opposition party was to make him a one-term president, while anyone who spoke out against his predecessor was pummeled with, “You are either with us, or against us.” Funny how behavior that was alleged to be treasonous was suddenly in vogue. Well not funny. Disgusting is more like it. 

And as has been the case for nearly six years, the opposition is more concerned with sinking the administration then solving a problem, and this VA debacle is yet another example. 

 And with the mid-term elections upon us, the opposition is tuning up in unison for its opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Oppose it all you want, but please do not lie in doing so. I realize that is a lot to ask, but to invoke, “putting health-care decisions back in the hands of patients and doctors,” is asking to go back to the 1960’s! Prior to the ACA, heath-care decisions were made the same place they are today – in insurance company offices far removed from the health-care arena. If you have to lie to make your point, you must not have much of a point to make. 

In many cases our veterans deserve better then they have been receiving. But rather then assign blame where it is due and rectify the problem caused by miscreants, those in power would rather tarnish the ones left holding the bag. And our veterans suffer because of it.


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