By Antonio Alvarado
In the American political universe, treating veterans poorly seems to be just about the only bipartisan agreement Democrats and Republicans can come to upon these days. A series of investigations led by CNN have revealed that at least 40 U.S. veterans could have died waiting to receive health care from the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system. This problem has existed for a long time under both Republican and Democratic presidencies but only this week before Memorial Day, of all days, has the true impact of this negligence come to full fruition.
The deaths of those who have risked their lives in service of our country, however, are not the full story. The most scandalous development was the fact that the Phoenix VA actually attempted to cover this up. CNN’s Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin report that a “secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources. Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.”
Although this problem happened under President Obama’s watch, the problem cannot be simply blamed on the Democrats. Obama has been consistently increasing funding for the VA with budget numbers showing a consistent rise in discretionary spending every year. Veteran advocates who saw this problem urged Congress to increase funding by passing a bill that would increase spending by 24 billion. Republicans unfortunately shot down this bill due to deficit concerns. Although this happened under a Democrat’s watch, the Republicans are to blame as well.
This problem, as complex as people try to make it appear, is actually rather simple. A VA hospital treats war veterans. Before the wars in the Middle East, carried out by President Bush, the majority of the people treated in these hospitals tended to be older people with more routine problems. There was no huge need for more doctors or more money because things were relatively stable. However, with the new wars came a huge influx of wounded veterans. No longer were these hospitals simply places to take care of a limited number of old people. Now many people with injuries of varying severity came to these hospitals. The funding, however, did not keep pace with the new demand, causing huge delays in treatment.
It is outrageous that these people who have these health problems because of their sacrifice for their country are not being taken care of by it. The message this scandal sends to the American people in my opinion is simply shameful. It says that “although you may value this country above yourself and your safety, this country in return does not value you.” We spend trillions of dollars on tanks and jets and bombs that we don’t even use. Our military spending FOR wars is outrageously wasteful and our military spending AFTER the wars has been shamefully sparse. Both parties need to support our troops on and off the battlefield.