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Your Opinion: Politicians botch VA health care

Your Opinion: Politicians botch VA health care

June 6th, 2014 by Tony Smith, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

American doctors are good. Good as any in Europe or Asia. However, American health care delivery is ranked at the bottom of the industrialized world. Are we surprised that the Veterans Administration and our military hospitals have problems?

What is the problem? As a veteran who uses the Columbia VA I am interested. As a taxpayer I am interested.

Forcing Gen. Shinseki as the top administrator to step down is a political action not a solution. He was not the problem. Think back to the Walter Reed military hospital scandal. George Bush and Secretary of Defense Gates were very angry. Walter Reed has now moved to a new state of the art facility. Yet, other military hospitals are in the news as failing to adequately care for the troops.

As Republicans deny monies to veteran and military hospitals, they tell us the problem is waste, fraud and abuse. The problem with scheduling new personnel into the VA and military systems has gone on for several decades. Gen. Shinseki tried to bring down the 28-day average wait time to 14 by edict. For whatever reason, this challenge was not met with honesty by his administrators. Instead it was met with falsified records. Lies were told to Shinseki, individuals suffered and some even died.

Policy decisions lead to real consequences. By denying a Medicaid expansion in this state, Republicans condemn a number of people to death. By keeping false records some VA administrators have caused death and hardship to veterans. GM refuses to replace a part and people die.

For years Agent Orange was ignored. Historically, PTSD has not been adequately treated. Gen. Shinseki broadened treatment for these issues. But add to that the large number of troops sent into war zones repeatedly and treatment issues skyrocketed.

The problem is clear. We send off the 1 percent who serve, but when they come back seeking help we as a nation skimp on taking care of them. War costs are now on a credit card because if the government taxed for it now, some wars would end very soon. Yet, with the human costs we will pay political football.

In his book "Duty" Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had contempt for the grandstanding of politicians. He seemed to despise their inaction. If fixing the VA or military hospitals is in the hands of politicians, Robert Gates is in despair. So am I.