By Harry C. Alford
Let me start with a quote from my mentor, the late Arthur A. Fletcher: “If your life becomes so miserable that you want to commit suicide, just check into a VA hospital. It won’t take long.”
Art told me that 15 years ago and today the status of Veterans Administration hospitals has gotten even worse. No matter how many news articles detailing the bevy of scandals; Congressional hearings and Inspector General Reports, it just keeps getting worse.
Veterans are the jewel of our population. They put their lives on the line with far too many giving up their lives in defense of our great nation. There has been no great civilization that did not hold its soldiers in high esteem. The direction we are headed in will make our civilization less than great. We must address this urgent and dire situation.
World War II was the biggest threat ever faced by our nation. Japan attacked our Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, which started a war with their imperial government while Germany immediately declared war against us at the same time. Thus, started what would be called America’s greatest generation – our citizens joined the military in historic and robust fashion.
We implemented a military machine never before realized by any nation. In the end, 407,000 American soldiers gave their lives to save our nation. Meanwhile, Japan lost 2.6 million military personnel and Germany spent 5.3 million military lives in its losing effort. From that point on, the United States has led the world in democracy, freedom and quality of life.
Congress rewarded our military with the G.I. Bill of Rights. This program educated our veterans in mass and provided 100 percent mortgages and medical help that was gravely needed. The foundation of the new American middle class is the product of this genuine program. But somehow the program has gone awry. The Veterans Administration is like a sick puppy trying to serve the needs of our veterans. As the Vietnam War started to end, attention and due pressure was placed on the VA, but it seems to have been of little avail.
A veteran has earned the status that affords him/her assistance. Military training establishes work ethic, devotion to nation and fellow man, completion of assigned tasks, responsibility, physical fitness and reliability. Any employer will tell you that a physically fit veteran is the best hire a company can have. They help save our nation and deserve the best.
However, today the Veterans Administration is filled with bureaucrats so spoiled from their unions they do not give our veterans the assistance they need. They don’t provide adequate care while the majority of the management of the VA receives annual bonuses. For what? The issuance of neglect and abuse of our veterans. The unions are so powerful that it is almost impossible to fire one of these bureaucrats for malfeasance and neglect. In terms of the hospitals, an alarming rate of veterans lose their lives while waiting and waiting for assistance that never comes. Over one-third of the patient backlog of VA hospitals have already died and no one bothers taking them off the list.
One thing we need is organized legal assistance for our veterans. My cousin was a pioneer in this area. He performed his duty as a Marine. When he finished his term he knew he needed medical help. This was an early sign (in the 1960s) of what would later be called PTSD. He demanded 100 percent medical disability plus damages. Everyone laughed but him. He got his niece, who is a very good attorney, to provide him legal advice. He filed an exhaustive lawsuit representing himself that went on for years and years. In the end, James Crawford was successful. He got his 100 percent disability, plus a settlement. He then started a consultancy helping other Vets who had similar problems as a result of their service. Yes, Vets need a legal defense fund to address the neglect they are receiving.
Many of our vets are homeless, sleeping in parks or in homeless shelters. Too many of them need mental assistance but we just ignore them as they wither away. These heroes deserve so much better. I tear up whenever I see “Wounded Warrior” ads on television. They have to appeal to the public for assistance. Where is our government? It is too ungrateful. Let’s start a legal defense fund for our vets.
In regards to VA hospitals, they are just too big to correct. We should put them up for sale and privatize them to hospital corporations that know what they are doing. Let’s begin this transition now! Goodbye to the no good bureaucrats and hello to the professionals who know how to make a hospital run like a profitable corporation.