By Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein
Surviving a warzone abroad to die waiting in line back home is beyond ironic—it is outrageous. The past few months have presented the American public with a harrowing excavation of corruption throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The initial scandal in April surrounding false waiting lists for veterans seeking care at facilities in Phoenix, Ariz., seems to have only scratched the surface as evidence of systemic mismanagement has since erupted and brought to light a painful betrayal of those who have risked their lives serving their country.
Unfortunately, the matter is as complicated as it is grave. Some factors seem obvious: Their scheduling system dates back to the ’80s, and funding has been sought for more than 14 years to remedy this. However, the VA is still a highly decentralized organization, with correspondingly varied quality of service, and even the widely praised leadership of Eric Shinseki did not save the organization from this disgrace. The former Secretary seems not only to have been universally respected for his integrity, but also admired for many significant improvements to the VA under his direction, such as reducing the wait-time for GI Bill benefits from months to days, and improving the rules on disability benefits. The scandal has swallowed victims both at the bottom and at the top.
While there is no silver bullet for the VA’s problems, hopefully there is a silver lining in both the bipartisan support for improving veterans’ welfare and newfound public awareness of the issue. While many might feel frustrated that reform has taken so long—18 watchdog reports criticizing the VA have been published since 2000—attention is finally being paid, and hopefully in time for the growing influx of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Preliminary legislation has flown through Congress, and Obama’s nomination of Robert McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, suggests an interest in hard-lined, corporate pragmatism.
This week, BreakThru News spoke with Adrian Bonenberger, Head of the New York Chapter of the Yale Veterans Association and author of Afghan Post, and Molly Knefel, host of BTR’s Radio Dispatch about the current condition of and future prospects for how we treat our veterans.
Host, Writer – Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein
Video Editor – Andy Morell
Script Supervisor – Matthew DeMello
with guests – Adrian Bonenberger, Molly Knefel