Outrage. Disgust. Disbelief.
These are what I feel when I hear the words ‘Veteran Affairs.’ In terms of this department, managed and funded by the government (i.e. taxpayers, i.e. you and me), the past two years have been disturbing, to say the least. Veterans of all ages have always been able to tell you of the poor quality of the care given at these facilities, not to mention the general lack of attention to detail by administrative staff and record keepers, and the sheer apathy of doctors and decision boards.
Yes, we know of the ridiculous wait times, the large waiting lists, and those who have died and were still waiting for care. It takes all ten of my fingers and four of my toes to count the veterans I know personally who have yet to receive a cent of the benefits that they have been hounding the VA over, one of which got out of the Army ten years ago! That’s ten years of pain and, on some days, immobility that he’s had to treat with money from his own pocket, in spite of the fact that it was his service to this inept government that caused said pain and immobility.
We’ve always understood that they suck at caring for us after we get out, that much is obvious. But what has been revealed in these last couple of years pushes that understanding to a whole new level of outrage. With each new story I slip further and further into the realm of desensitization. I told a friend the other day that I don’t think anything about the VA could shock me anymore . . . it has become commonplace.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, which is highly likely because these stories don’t take precedence for our media, there have been some troubling revelations about the VA this year, two in the last week alone. We’ve heard of their massive problem with disciplining employees, patients dying of manslaughter, data being manipulated to show that patients had received care when they hadn’t, or much earlier than they did. We’ve heard of their bloated budget and wasteful spending, which is much higher than other federal agencies.
I wrote an article earlier in the semester entitled “Some Debts Have Gone Unpaid,” which detailed the story of Brandon Ketchum, a QC native who went to the VA hospital for mental care and took his own life after being turned away. More cases like that have been reported since.
Just last week, we found out that a Wisconsin VA hospital may have infected at least 600 veterans with HIV and hepatitis (which isn’t even the first time this has happened, a worse exposure happened in 2010 in Missouri). We also found out last week about a veteran dying at a facility with maggots in his infected wounds. Four employees directly responsible for the resident’s care quit when an investigation was started.
At this point, I expect to see stories like this. I expect to see and hear of the poor, ineffective treatment of veterans. This resignation saddens me. But, of course, I hate generalizations, and we can’t blame every VA employee, or every VA facility; some of them do the best they can. It is more than safe to say, though, that overall, there is something wrong in the department. It is broken, and it needs to be fixed.
I know that we’re all still dazed from recent political happenings, but I hope that no matter who is president, no matter which party holds which majority, no matter who is governor or who is secretary of whatever department, that these issues are taken seriously and addressed with the urgency and fervor that they need to be.