Our veterans deserve the best medical care available. In a time where we subsidize illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities, neglecting our vets is nothing less than criminal. President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse this shameful tragedy.
The woefully inadequate bureaucracy known as the Veterans Administration needs a top to bottom overhaul. Every single person in this country owes their freedom to our brave warriors. The last eight years have seen the VA degenerate to third world status. It didn’t have far to go.
Most veterans will tell you the medical staff is mostly adequate. Getting to them is the problem. Many vets, especially those with mental issues, fall through the cracks. Corruption and abuse have long been a cancer at the VA. Non-medical personnel have been a source of abuse and corruption. Trump has already begun to stop the hemorrhaging. Days into Donald Trump’s administration, heads are finally beginning to roll at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Two notoriously corrupt employees in Puerto Rico were fired this week, indicating that more may be on the way.
One is the hospital’s CEO, DeWayne Hamlin, who offered an employee $305,000 to quit after she played a role in exposing his drug arrest.
“Mr. DeWayne Hamlin was removed from federal service effective January 20, 2017,” the VA said. Jan. 20 was Inauguration Day.
Under former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, the agency ignored years of evidence about shoddy work ethic, theft and whistleblower retaliation. The VA finally began a months-long investigative proceeding last year, after an outside agency, the Office of Special Counsel, prodded VA leadership. Scandal, controversy and veterans care in the United States have gone hand-in-hand for virtually as long as there’s been a republic.
After the Revolutionary War, for instance, payments promised by Congress to disabled veterans were left up to the states, and only a few thousand of those who served ever received anything.
Congress created the Veterans Bureau in 1921, to administer assistance to World War I veterans. It quickly devolved into corruption, and was abolished nine years later under a cloud of scandal. Thousands of World War I veterans and their families marched on Washington to demand payment of promised war bonuses. In an embarrassing spectacle, federal troops forcibly removed veterans who refused to end their protest.
President Harry Truman accepted the resignation of VA Administrator Frank Hines in 1945, after a series of news reports detailing shoddy care in VA-run hospitals. The American Legion led the charge seeking the ouster of VA Administrator Gen. Omar Bradley, citing an ongoing lack of facilities, troubles faced by hundreds of thousands of veterans in getting services and a proposal to limit access to services for some combat veterans.
In 1947, a government commission on reforming government uncovered enormous waste, duplication and inadequate care in the VA system and called for wholesale changes in the agency’s structure. A second government reform commission in 1955 again found widespread instances of waste and poor care in the VA system.
Vietnam veterans in the early 1970’s grew increasingly frustrated with the VA for failing to better fund treatment and assistance programs, and later to recognize exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange by troops in Vietnam as the cause for numerous medical problems among veterans.
Ron Kovic, the subject of the book and movie, “Born on the Fourth of July,” interrupted Richard Nixon’s GOP presidential nomination acceptance speech, saying, according to his biography, “I’m a Vietnam veteran. I gave America my all, and the leaders of this government threw me and others away to rot in their VA hospitals.”
Kovic led a 19-day hunger strike at a federal building in Los Angeles to protest poor treatment of veterans in VA hospitals. He and fellow veterans demanded to meet with VA Director Donald Johnson. The embattled director eventually flew to California to meet with the activists, but left after they rejected his demand to meet in the VA’s office in the building. The ensuing uproar resulted in widespread criticism of Johnson. A few weeks later, Johnson resigned after President Richard Nixon announces an investigation into VA operations.
A General Accounting Office investigation into Denver’s VA hospital found numerous shortcomings in patient care, including veterans whose surgical dressings were rarely changed. The GAO also looked at the New Orleans VA hospital, and found ever-increasing patient loads were contributing to a decline in the quality of care there, as well.
Congressional investigators in 1984 found evidence that VA officials had diverted or refused to spend more than $40 million that Congress approved to help Vietnam veterans with readjustment problems. The VA’s Inspector General’s office found 93 physicians working for the agency have sanctions against their medical licenses.
Outrage erupted after documents revealed some senior VA officials received bonuses of up to $33,000 despite a backlog of hundreds of thousands of benefits cases and an internal review that found numerous problems, some of them critical, at VA facilities across the nation.
Nine Ohio veterans tested positive for hepatitis after routine dental work at a VA clinic in Dayton, Ohio. A dentist at the VA medical center there acknowledged not washing his hands or even changing gloves between patients for 18 years. More recently, at least 19 veterans died at VA hospitals in 2010 and 2011 because of delays in diagnosis and treatment. At least 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments to see a doctor at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system.
A VA employee was placed on administrative leave after an email surfaced in which the employee discussed “gaming the system a bit” to manipulate waiting times. The suspension came a day after a scheduling clerk in San Antonio admitted to “cooking the books” to shorten apparent waiting times. Three days later, two employees in Durham, North Carolina, were placed on leave over similar allegations.
The problems at the VA are deeply embedded. It has a culture of corruption, abuse, neglect, and waste. It will take all the power President Trump can bring to bear on a broken system.
He’s vowed to do it.