May 26, 2014 at 1:00 am


Editorial: Honor living vets, too, with better care from VA

Mismanagement and neglect at the Veterans Administrationis an insult to those who have served our country

Americaís veterans already face enormous challenges, from finding employment to adjusting to civilian life, when returning home from combat service. The least they should expect is competent and timely medical treatment for any injuries or ailments they suffered while fighting for their country.

The current mismanagement and neglect at the federal Department of Veteran Affairs is a disservice and insult to those veterans.

This needs to move quickly from blame-gaming to problem-solving. The Veterans Administration has been in disarray for too long. Instead of making excuses, the White House and Congress must figure out whatís wrong, and fix it.

The allegations against the VA are appalling. Reports of treatment delays and preventable deaths at veteransí hospitals should outrage not just those who have served in the military, but also all Americans for whom they served.

The VA Inspector Generalís office is investigating 26 facilities nationwide. This includes a Phoenix hospital where 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment and staff there kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments, to hide delays in care.

The hypocrisy of the federal government is stunning. At the same time bureaucrats were scolding General Motors Corp. for covering up vehicle defects tied to a dozen deaths, a federal agency was apparently doing much the same thing, only on a far larger scale.

President Barack Obama last week said he was angry at the details of the emerging VA scandal. But his outrage is somewhat disingenuous. While campaigning in 2008, he chided the Bush administration for neglecting veteransí care. But despite a near doubling of the VA budget, the problems in the medical system have persisted under his watch.

The first casualty of the VA scandal appears to be Robert Petzel, the departmentís undersecretary for health care, who resigned earlier this month, shortly ahead of his scheduled retirement. Other officials should be held accountable if they acted negligently, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski.

The chronic failure of the VA medical facilities must finally end, and the investigation must get at not just the reasons the hospitals are so incompetent, but whatís needed to fix them. The lives of too many military personnel are at stake to take short cuts. VA hospitals and clinics, nationally, serve an estimated eight million veterans. The facilities handled almost 90 million outpatient visits in 2013.

Memorial Day is celebrated to remember our fallen heroes. Their sacrifices should not be forgotten.

But the VA scandal should remind us that our living veterans must be honored, too. Those who return home to enjoy the freedom they defended should not become casualties of an inept Veterans Affairs department.

President Barack Obama needs to show that his administration can fix ... (Susan Walsh / AP)