I’ve seen the deterioration of government support and oversight of the Veterans Administration first hand – and I know that we can do better for the men and women who have given so much to protect our country, and the world.
Both of my Grandfathers served in WWII. The GI benefits they received on returning to civilian life gave them the opportunity to raise my parents well, and give them a great education. I’m grateful for that.
I also have two uncles who served in Vietnam. One uncle was a career Navy man, and is doing really well today. My other uncle suffered a lot from the Viet-Cong, but also from the Agent Orange his own government sprayed on him, and other Veterans. When he went to the VA with some serious health and mental issues, their answer was to sedate him – they just didn’t have the capacity or will to treat him and others who suffered similarly. He has since struggled with many issues, and has had trouble finding a purpose-filled life.
Today, my older brother is a Lieutenant in the US Army, the first person in my family to earn an officer’s commission. Lt. Rothblatt spent four years in Korea to earn entry to OCS, when he could have taken the officers’ commission after graduating from NYU Law instead. His story inspires me, and his service makes our Army stronger.
I myself participated in AFJROTC and briefly volunteered with the Israeli Defense Force. I can’t pretend to know what it means to be a veteran, but I can say that I have utmost respect for our soldiers.
That’s why it angers me to see how this administration, and especially this do-nothing congress, have avoided the pressing issues facing our veterans. While President Obama has done an extraordinary job working with a recalcitrant, hostile congress, he hasn’t focused as clearly as he should have on Veterans Affairs.
The current Congress has not only failed to legislate useful and positive legislation for Veterans during these critical times, they have failed to reform the Veterans Administration and its hospitals. Worse than that, they have disgraced the institutions and principles for which our veterans and fallen heroes fought for.
The GI Bill was one of the best pieces of legislation ever written. The philosophy of it, even its early implementation were exceptional and should be a model of how legislators look to move America forward. However, times change, and now is the moment to reshape the GI Bill to fit our rapidly evolving society and economy. The service branches themselves must too take a deep look inside and begin making internal changes that position their service people to make a quick and painless transition into civilian life and industry.
This is a parable for what our veterans are going through, a lot of talk about cutting wait times down, with no action on solving the real problems. The true problem at the VA is that it institutionally would rather medicate and subdue our veterans than cure them. More important than saying whether or not something is accountable is to question what it is we are accounting for?