The State of the Union left a lot to be desired but was to be expected since this was billed as President Obama’s victory lap. True to form, the President swooned about “accomplishments” that could only be seen through a very thick pair of rosy glasses. What is puzzling and troubling are the things that weren’t mentioned at all: Paris, San Bernardino, and North Korea. But for me, as a Marine Corps veteran, not mentioning the need for a rapid solution to the unsolved problems of the Veteran’s Administration, it is worse that leaving a fallen Marine on the battlefield.
President Obama is all about the victory lap. We’ve seen it so many times from him and from liberals in an attempt to bolster the perception of their handling of terrorism and ISIS. They never miss an opportunity to talk tough and mention how they “got” Bin Laden. The State of the Union was no exception. The comment came on the heels of throwing the obligatory platitudes at the Armed Forces to check the “I Support the Troops” box.
But during all the “applause meter politics” of the State of the Union with the mention of climate change, a roaring economy, clean energy and racing to cure cancer, Obama never spoke of the thousands of veterans languishing under a corrupt, dysfunctional Veteran’s Administration that hasn’t been corrected. In fact, hardly any meaningful action has been taken and certainly no high-profile (and needed) firings have taken place. Ironically, two executives, originally suspended from the Phoenix VA facility when the scandal emerged, are being allowed to return to work without consequence and the Justice Department has refused to pursue charges in 46 of 55 cases referred by the VA’s inspector general.
And yet, veterans and wounded warriors still desperately need care and support. For some, the VA is their only option. Is this really the best our lawmakers can do? It has been almost two years since the VA scandal broke over long wait times due to “secret lists”. An official investigation showed that those long wait times contributed to the deaths of forty veterans. Further, the problems with oversight of the VA and the abysmal scheduling procedures have been reported by the Government Accountability Office for years. And, the problems aren’t isolated but, in fact, an epidemic infecting over 10 different facilities across the nation.
But it gets worse. Montel Williams, a TV talk show host and a veteran of the Marine Corps and Navy, brought out some startling current facts when appearing with Neil Cavuto after the State of the Union address. The suicide rate among veterans hasn’t dropped and there are still reports of extended wait times at the VA. What is it going to take for veterans to get the care they have earned and stop being indirectly spit on by Washington? More of them dying while waiting for care? More of them committing suicide as a result of untreated PTSD?
Where is President Obama on this issue? President Obama has no problem talking tough about his pen and phone to circumvent Congress when they don’t agree with him. Why not use Executive Actions for something useful that could make a visible, long-standing difference in the lives of Americans that have served our country? Instead, his pen is used to sign Executive Actions to enact ineffective gun control measures that won’t impact the safety of Americans or prevent the enforcement of our immigration laws.
I talked to my grandfather today who is a veteran of the Korean War. He, like thousands of Americans, served proudly and had passed on incredible lessons to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I don’t have the words to express how pivotal my grandfather has been in my life especially when I decided to serve and the tremendous void that would be present if he wasn’t. After 37 years of being a semi-truck driver, my grandfather has a heart condition that has steadily gotten worse with age. He only relies on the VA for his medication since the closest VA hospitals are 90 and 120 miles away.
He recently had an emergent episode where the doctor discovered that scar tissue had formed inside one of the many stints in his heart and the artery was 99% blocked. The interesting point is that his doctor had previously tried to prescribe a medication that would prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, since the medicine didn’t have a generic equivalent, the VA refused to cover the cost and the doctor decided to try increasing the dosage of his current medication. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. As a result, my grandfather was taken in an ambulance to the hospital with serious chest pain and was faced with a very risky procedure to remove the scar tissue which only opened the artery to 50%. Without the VA’s silly generic medicine rules, perhaps this dangerous situation could have been avoided.
In talking about the VA and his latest trip to the hospital, my grandfather said something very prophetic: “When people join the service, they hand over a blank check that could end up being paid with their very lives. Why is it that when we need care, it’s second class?” Always the God-centered, optimist, he caveated with this: “But I’m lucky, I only rely on the VA for my medication. But what about those who are wounded and the VA is their only option?”
There are many things President Obama and the Congress could do. Concerned Veterans for America have put forth some great ideas in a detailed report to get at this issue now. Montel Williams has also mentioned how the backlog could be erased in 90 days with the help of active duty medical personnel put on temporary duty. Give veterans the ability to get care from non-VA facilities and access to medications needed regardless of generic equivalency. All great ideas that could be done tomorrow if the President wanted to do it.
Our Armed Forces are the strongest, most effective fighting force in the world today. Active duty members, reservists, National Guard and veterans represent all those that have stepped forward and given the blank check to serve our nation. That commitment, courage and sacrifice should be honored with the best care available today, ensuring that no one is left behind.
“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” -Theodore Roosevelt
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