OPINIONS

Politics aside, please

Like all tragedies associated with war, the recent evidence suggesting mismanagement at Veterans Affairs hospitals has led to veterans’ deaths is appalling. However, what it is not is political.

Or, at least it shouldn’t be.

Republicans have certainly capitalized on the opportunity to attack the Obama Administration and “big government,” citing the former’s support for the latter as the reason for the scandal.

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Jeff Miller (R-FL) told CNN: “You’ve got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable.” In other words, Miller says, the VA’s failures are big government run amok.

Even more scathing and direct are the remarks from Jim Nicholson, who was the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President George W. Bush—a man himself not free of scandal. First, he questioned President Obama’s commitment to veterans because “he never showed up” to Veterans Affairs Committee meetings while he was a senator. More to the point, Nicholson stated, “What’s happening now is the President of the United States is not taking responsibility for this, and what I think the root problem is with these hospital directors is we’ve seen this kind of dishonesty and duplicity on the part of the President.” This was no minor politician looking to score points on C-SPAN: Nicholson was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2001.

Many Republicans criticize President Obama for not holding people accountable and, it seems, would have acted differently.

Or not. Let’s compare President Obama’s stance to that of these Republicans:

OBAMA: “I have said to Ric [Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs], and I said it to him today, I want to see what the results of these [VA Inspector General] reports are, and there is going to be accountability.” (5/21/2014)

NICHOLSON: “I think it’s premature to make that decision [to fire Shinseki]. There’s a lot of investigating that needs to go on.” (5/23/2014)

MILLER: “Secretary Shinseki doesn’t need to go until we’ve seen the final [VA Inspector General] report.” (5/25/2014)

There seems to be a consensus that the solution is not simply to fire General Shinseki, but to investigate further. That is precisely what President Obama is doing.

Even Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner agrees with President Obama, stating: “I have not called for Gen. Shinseki to resign.” Indeed, he cites the problem not with Obama, but with administrators below Shinseki: “This isn’t about one person. This isn’t about the Secretary. It is about the entire system underneath him.”

Indeed, we have consistently failed veterans, regardless of the president’s party. In 2003, hundreds of thousands of veterans were waiting more than 180 days to receive medical care. In 1991, eight patients died from poor treatment in a Chicago VA hospital; similarly, inadequate care spurred a 19-day hunger strike in 1974. And perhaps most famously, the Bonus Army, a grouped of retired WWI vets, occupied a Depression-era Hooverville in 1932 in protest of delayed benefits.

The biggest predictor of a VA failure isn’t big government or Democrats; it’s war.

We must remember that there is no need for a Department of Veterans’ Affairs without an active Department of Defense.

According to the Washington Post, almost one out of every two veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan file for disability. There were more claims last year than any previous year, with 611,000. Even now, there is a backlog of 300,000 cases which have been dealt with for more than 125 days.

“The other area that we have to talk about is that 2 million new veterans coming in in the last few years,” said Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “Do we have the staff in all areas of this country to accommodate the needs of those veterans? Frankly, between you and me, I’m not sure that we do.”

So yes, we must solve the current VA backlog and punish those administrators who were duplicitous. But we must also recognize the greater problem: a growing civil-military divide that allows these failures to happen.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans go abroad to defend this nation and their service is rarely on the top of our minds, even when they return. Kimberly Tan powerfully explains that civilians have very little idea of the reality of war. Perhaps if they did, we wouldn’t have spent so long in Iraq. Perhaps if they did, there would have been fewer wounds to heal.

Last Wednesday, Matthew Colford and Tim Hsia asked you to reflect on our soldiers’ service. I echo their challenge to bike past Memorial Auditorium and remember what others have given for us to be here. But I also would like to push you to think about when that service should be invoked.

My answer? Rarely.

Contact Nick Ahamed at nahamed@stanford.edu.

About Nick Ahamed

Nick Ahamed is the Managing Editor of Opinions for Volume 246 of The Stanford Daily. He previously served as a political columnist. He is a senior from Minneapolis, Minn. majoring in Political Science. Contact him at nahamed@stanford.edu for personal emails or opinions@stanforddaily.com to submit op-eds.
  • American

    The VA is not settling claims and taking care of disabled American veterans! Hickey, Shinseki and the rest are DENYING nearly every claim, forcing all the veterans to submit appeals. Once the veterans’ claims are denied and shuffled to APPEALS, they no longer have to be counted as ” BACK-LOGGED CLAIMS.”
    So Hickey, Shinseki, and their band of heartless thieves can FORGET ABOUT all those injured, sick and wounded Americans who served our country and protected us all from harm!
    Once a veteran soldier’s claim reaches the appeals stage, it WILL BE YEARS before it is glanced at again, IF EVER! At the APPEALS STAGE, our WOUNDED WARRIORS must appear before a CIVILIAN VA JUDGE to BEG FOR COMPENSATION and MEDICAL CARE THAT THEY EARNED and RIGHTFULLY DESERVE for THEIR SERVICE TO THIS GREAT COUNTRY!
    These VA JUDGES are just more HIGHLY- PAID, PRIVILEGED LAWYERS who never served a day of their lives in the UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES!
    OUR WOUNDED WARRIORS should not have to bow down to these guys and BEG FOR HELP WE ALL NEED TO STAND UP and STOP
    the VA’s CRUEL TREATMENT of OUR AMERICAN MILITARY VETERANS TODAY!

  • American

    Now the VETERANS’ CLAIMS BACKLOG is being forgotten. The
    VA Scandal involving the deliberate neglect at VA Hospitals causing MANY
    VETERANS to die is being looked at. So, Shinseki and his band of thieves
    don’t have to worry about the BACKLOG OF CLAIMS submitted by INJURED, SICK and
    WOUNDED VETERANS SEEKING MEDICAL CARE and COMPENSATION for SERIOUS
    SERVICE-CONNECTED WOUNDS!

    THE VA WILL PUSH THIS UNDER THE RUG, ONCE AGAIN.NOTHING WILL CHANGE! CONGRESS WILL GIVE THE VA ‘BILLIONS MORE DOLLARS,’ and they will divide it up among themselves. Our Veterans will not get their compensation and medical care.
    These VA thieves will get more salary, bigger bonuses, more lavish vacations,
    more expensive homes, cars and etc.

    All of a sudden, every politician, Democrat and Republican is jumping to take
    on the VA Backlog. Not one of these men or women gave a second thought to the
    cruel way the VA is treating our veterans until the past few weeks. After the
    fiasco of the government shutdown, the spying incident, and the Obama-Care,
    that can’t be accessed, all the politicians from both parties are scrambling
    like rats on a sinking ship to save their jobs! These elected officials finally
    realize that us voters are going to get rid of every incumbent Congressman,
    Senator, and etc. in the next few elections. The President has already served
    his two terms, so we won’t need to vote him out.

    So now, here we are with all these politicians claiming they are going to fix
    the VA Backlog, and they deserve credit for it. All the while, things aren’t
    getting any better. Congress and the Senate, with the President’s blessing,
    have passed several pieces of legislation, given the VA billions of dollars,
    and 700,000 of our injured, sick and wounded American veteran soldiers are
    still suffering and dying while begging for help from the VA.

    The VA executives, lawyers and claims adjusters are sure enjoying that billions
    of taxpayers’ dollars. They are getting huge salaries, $20,000-$50,000 in
    annual bonuses for not doing their job, complete family medical benefits (not
    Obamacare, either), and trips to exotic places for so-called conferences in
    5-Star hotels, with lavish meals, spas, and etc.
    Here is what happens at the VA every day. A VA claims adjuster picks up a
    veteran’s claim, glances at it briefly, and immediately denies it. Then a
    letter is sent to the disabled veteran. The veteran must then appeal this
    decision. Once the appeal is sent back to the VA and received, it goes into a
    much worse backlog, the VA Claims Appeals Backlog. This backlog is better known
    as cardboard boxes full of claims tossed into some storage room, never to be
    touched. Once the veteran’s claim reaches this appeals level, it will be 5-7
    years, or maybe more before the claim is glanced at again. Most appeals are
    never worked on, because the claims that are in appeals do not count toward the
    number of backlogged claims the VA has to report. So, the goal is to deny as
    many claims as possible, get them into appeals, and forget they exist.
    While all this cruel, heartless behavior is going on at the VA, the executives,
    lawyers and adjusters are singing their national anthem, “DENY, DENY,
    UNTIL THEY DIE! What a National Disgrace!

  • American

    This whole thing is a NATIONAL DISGRACE!

    The government takes care of every LAZY,
    DRUNKEN, DRUG ADDICT with WELFARE (so they don’t have to work), FOOD STAMPS (
    they can eat well), ADC (aid for each child they have, encouraging them
    to keep having more), and MEDICAID(to take care of their Methadone injections
    to get off heroin, and their addictive pain meds, like oxycodin, prescribed for
    their back pain caused from lying on their asses and doing NOTHING ALL
    DAY, EVERY DAY)! Yet, our government DENIES compensation and medical care
    to our American Veteran Soldiers!

    Thank God for representatives in Washington like
    Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina. This man is not just a typical D.C.
    politician. He represents the people. He is the voice of American taxpayers.
    Senator Burr stepped up and exposed Allison Hickey of the VA for the lies she
    is telling Congress and the media. The VAis not settling claims and taking care
    of disabled American veterans! Hickey, Shinseki and the rest are DENYING nearly
    every claim, forcing all the veterans to submit appeals. Once the veterans’
    claims are denied and shuffled to APPEALS, they no longer have to be counted as
    “BACK-LOGGED CLAIMS.” So Hickey, Shinseki, and their band of
    heartless thieves can FORGET ABOUT all those injured, sick and wounded
    Americans who served our country and protected us all from harm! Once a veteran
    soldier’s claim reaches the appeals stage, it WILL BE YEARS before it is
    glanced at again, IF EVER! At the APPEALS STAGE, our WOUNDED WARRIORS must
    appear before a CIVILIAN VA JUDGE to BEG FOR COMPENSATION and MEDICAL CARE THAT
    THEY EARNED and RIGHTFULLY DESERVE for THEIR SERVICE TO THIS GREAT COUNTRY!
    These VA JUDGES are just more HIGHLY- PAID, PRIVILEDGED LAWYERS who never
    served a day of their lives in the UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES! OUR WOUNDED
    WARRIORS should not have to bow down to these guys and BEG FOR HELP! WE ALL
    NEED TO STAND UP and STOP the VA’s CRUEL TREATMENT of OUR AMERICAN MILITARY
    VETERANS TODAY!

    Democrats and Republicans are jumping to take on
    the VA Backlog. Not one of these people gave a second thought to the cruel way
    the VA is treating our veterans until the past few weeks. After the fiasco of
    the government shutdown, the spying incident, and the Obama-Care that can’t be
    accessed, politicians from both parties are scrambling to save their jobs!
    Elected officials finally realize that voters are going to get rid of every
    Incumbent in the next few elections.

    Politicians are claiming they are going to fix
    the VA Backlog, and they deserve credit for it. Congress and the Senate, with
    the President’s blessing, passed several pieces of legislation, giving the VA
    billions of dollars. Yet, 700,000 of our injured, sick and wounded
    American veteran soldiers are still suffering and dying while begging for help
    from the VA.

    The VA executives, lawyers and claims adjusters
    are sure enjoying that billions of taxpayers’ dollars. They are getting huge
    salaries, $20,000-$50,000 in annual bonuses for not doing their job, complete
    family medical benefits (not Obama Care, either), and trips to exotic places
    for so-called conferences in 5-Star hotels, with lavish meals, spas, and etc.

    Every day, VA claims adjusters pick up veteran’s
    claims, glances at them briefly, and immediately deny them. A letter is sent to
    the disabled veterans, and they must then appeal this decision. Once the appeal
    is sent back to the VA, it goes into a much worse backlog, the VA Claims
    Appeals Backlog. This backlog is better known as cardboard boxes full of claims
    tossed into some storage room. Once the veteran’s claim reaches this appeals
    level, it will be 5-7 years, or maybe more before the claim is glanced at
    again. Appeals are never worked on, because the claims that are in appeals do
    not count toward the number of backlogged claims the VA has to report. So, the
    VA goal is deny as many claims as possible, get them into appeals, and forget
    they exist. “DENY, DENY, UNTIL THEY DIE!”

  • American

    All of a sudden, every politician, Democrat and Republican is
    jumping to take on the VA Backlog. Not one of these men or women gave a second
    thought to the cruel way the VA is treating our veterans until the past few
    weeks. After the fiasco of the government shutdown, the spying incident, and
    the Obama-Care, that can’t be accessed, all the politicians from both parties
    are scrambling like rats on a sinking ship to save their jobs! These elected officials
    finally realize that voters are going to get rid of every incumbent
    Congressman, Senator, and etc. in the next few elections. The President is
    already served his two terms, so we won’t need to vote him out.

    So now, here we are with all these politicians claiming they are going to fix
    the VA Backlog, and they deserve credit for it. All the while, things aren’t
    getting any better. Congress and the Senate, with the President’s blessing,
    have passed several pieces of legislation, given the VA billions of dollars,
    and 700,000 of our injured, sick and wounded American veteran soldiers are
    still suffering and dying while begging for help from the VA.

    The VA executives, lawyers and claims adjusters are sure enjoying that billions
    of taxpayers’ dollars. They are getting huge salaries, $20,000-$50,000 in
    annual bonuses for not doing their job, complete family medical benefits (not
    Obamacare, either), and trips to exotic places for so-called conferences in
    5-Star hotels, with lavish meals, spas, and etc.

    Here is what happens at the VA every day. A VA claims adjuster picks up a
    veteran’s claim, glances at it briefly, and immediately denies it. Then a
    letter is sent to the disabled veteran. The veteran must then appeal this
    decision. Once the appeal is sent back to the VA and received, it goes into a
    much worse backlog, the VA Claims Appeals Backlog. This backlog is better known
    as cardboard boxes full of claims tossed into some storage room, never to be
    touched. Once the veteran’s claim reaches this appeals level, it will be 5-7
    years, or maybe more before the claim is glanced at again. Most appeals are
    never worked on, because the claims that are in appeals do not count toward the
    number of backlogged claims the VA has to report. So, the goal is to deny as
    many claims as possible, get them into appeals, and forget they exist.

    While all this cruel, heartless behavior is going on at the VA, the executives,
    lawyers and adjusters are singing their national anthem, “DENY, DENY,
    UNTIL THEY DIE! What a National Disgrace!

  • Rick Martinez

    Yes, it is a national disgrace that WE are not serving our Veterans the way they served us. And what should shame us all is our soldiers fought side by side together on foreign lands irrespective of being Democrat or Republican–yet they come home to an America at war between Americans who will not set aside differences to give our wounded soldiers the health care services they desperately need. Instead what’s most important to America and Americans is politics–who’s at blame, who’s scoring the most points for the next election, and who said what.

    This VA scandal is not about the past, not about politics or politicians, not about who’s right, not about more money, not about the failed leadership of the President and the Democrats, or even about the parallel between VA medicine and Obamacare. The issue is about who is willing to go out to each and every 1700 VA sites immediately–NOW, without further reports–to mandate accountability, to establish care for the last and lost, and to put in place new administrators and administrative health care teams at each VA facility. The new motto must be: “What’s right for patientcare is right for the healthcare facility.”

    All this stuff about more reports, investigations, leading from behind, wait and see policy,
    political correctness, War Heroes, bureaucracy and the like–can remain as part of BIG
    GOVERNMENT…as long as our Veterans get the care they deserve.

Advertisment ad adsense adlogger