Washington forgetting, not supporting troops

Republicans and Democrats share blame for lack of support

Jay Serrano, Managing Editor

Heads need to roll.

The recent revelation that at least 40 veterans died while awaiting care at a Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Arizona shows how badly the government has failed our veterans.

While we can never fully repay their sacrifice, the least our government can do is provide active duty personnel with adequate gear and have sufficient veterans support services waiting for them when they get home.

Unfortunately, neither political party has a good, or even decent record on veteran’s affairs.

Heads need to roll for the systematic neglect and recent cover-ups, but blaming the whole issue on President Obama and the current administration lets too many terribly incompetent people off of the hook.

When soldiers were deployed into Afghanistan and Iraq, the military sent them in with improperly armored Humvees.

Alone, that fact may sound bad, but it also sounds possibly justifiable.

Except apparently the government knew about the issues with under-armored vehicles since 1993, according to an NBC news report.

Even though the government knew about the armoring issues a decade before the start of the Iraq war, they did nothing to fix the problem until we were several years into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2004, now former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held a question and answer session with a group of soldiers when a soldier informed Rumsfeld that the Humvees did not have the proper armor, according to a PBS transcript of the event.

According to the same transcript, Rumsfeld responded with a dismissive, “As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

The army didn’t have to go to war with under-armored vehicles; they had plenty of time to upgrade to the army “you might want.” It is reprehensible the government could not bring itself to fix this issue until the casualties started piling up, despite the fact they had an entire decade to do it.

Government and bureaucracy move slowly but this was ridiculous.

The government has done everything but a quality job caring for veterans when they return home.

When the Bush-Cheney White House planned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they failed to sufficiently update the Veterans Affairs system in order to compensate for the coming increase in enrollment.

Veterans came home to out of date medical facilities and a Veterans Affairs system that had apparently not updated its record keeping systems since what seems like the Civil War.

The records situation is bad, but some of the actual hospitals have found a way to be even worse.

The latest breaking scandal in the government concerns a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix which kept two sets of waiting lists in an attempt to make it appear veterans were receiving prompt treatment, according to an investigative report by CNN.

In 2007, a Washington Post investigative report turned up evidence of neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The report detailed the existence of black mold, dead insects and rundown, neglected architecture in several of the patient housing buildings.

While not all Veterans Affairs hospitals are as bad as the one in Arizona or the neglected housing units at Walter Reed, the situation should never have been allowed to get this bad, anywhere.

Failing to adequately care for American veterans is not a new problem for the government. Veterans being neglected goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

It is never too late to fix the problem. We must support our troops by holding the government accountable for failing to take care of active duty soldiers and veterans.