Another blind eye
Looming like a foreboding cloud over Memorial Day and the visiting Vietnam Moving Wall in Northumberland County are the dozens of veterans who died waiting for proper medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Long waits, ineptitude, unwarranted death and cover-up are words that should never meet when discussing the VA.
If there is one unifying issue for Americans of all political stripes, it is that our nation's veterans should be provided for, especially when faced with illness. To serve abroad and in harm's way and then return home and die at the hands of an overwhelming government bureaucracy is tragic and un-American.
Obama claims he wasn't aware of the VA's problems until reporters told him. Obama doesn't hold press conferences to announce news; he holds them to find out what's going on in his administration (see: Benghazi, NSA and IRS scandals). Apparently, Obama gets his news like the rest of us newspaper junkies, rather than from his cabinet and intelligence briefings.
If this doesn't highlight our federal government as a dysfunctional behemoth too large to know or control, then what does?
In 2007, headlines told of mold throughout the Walter Reed Medical Center right under the nose of the VA's headquarters. Obama was well aware of the VA's problems because, while campaigning for president that same year, he promised veterans, "I'll be a president who ensures that America serves our men and women in uniform as well as they've served us."
Lip service is the only thing Obama has ever provided. The record shows while he was a senator, Obama served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, but never attended any meetings. As former Veterans Affairs head Jim Nicholson told CNN, "He was on the committee, but never showed up."
Seven years later with our military stretched razor thin and the VA system a broken bureaucracy drowning in scandal, the ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for assistance has grown from 11,000 in Obama's first year in office to 245,000 last December - an increase of more than 2,000 percent.
Moreover, Obama cut off access to Washington's war memorials and denied death benefit payments to the families of those veterans killed in Afghanistan during last year's government shutdown.
If anything, the VA can lay claim to being the worst bureaucracy in the federal government. Its ongoing crisis is a foreshadowing of health care under ObamaCare.
Do you really believe ObamaCare will run any better?
Delays are customary in government-run health systems in Canada and England.
The VA's problems are rooted in a systemic cluster that is backloaded with defects that include extended wait times and aging and broken equipment compounded by a heartless indifference to care. What are killing these veterans aren't undiagnosed illnesses, but a systematically diseased, out of control and neglectful federal government bureaucracy.
All this is nothing new. The VA's failures have been disclosed in a mountain heap of reports parked in congressional oversight committees that both the White House and Congress have failed to address.
It's obvious such dishonor to our veterans runs a lot deeper than substandard treatment. Congress has failed to adequately govern the VA for some time. The books were cooked over an open flame while the Obama administration and Congress looked the other way.
For the ideological liberal, and that's all of them, the VA is health care's panacea - no competitive insurance plans, no private physicians, just Uncle Sam's bureaucratic maze and his dull scalpel.
The VA medical system should provide the best care for those we owe the most. Anyone who's been a cog in the VA's un-orchestrated madness knows better. My induction physical was supposed to last one hour. It did. But it took eight hours to get it done. This was my introduction to the VA's ersatz motto: "hurry up and wait."
Does anyone still believe that universal health care modeled on the VA medical system is what Americans need?
The AP reported in 2009 that illegal immigrants in Arizona incurred health care costs of nearly $700 million. Juxtapose that to what occurred in Phoenix where 40 veterans died waiting for VA-run facilities to treat them while government hacks misled their families about treatment delays.
It is treasonous when illegal immigrants and convicted felons are treated better than the nation's volunteer military veterans.
The VA doesn't need to be in the medical field. In an ideal world, veterans would be provided with vouchers where they could freely pursue health plans and medical facilities of their choosing.
Then again, in an ideal world, this scandal would have never happened.
(Greg Maresca, a freelance writer, composes "Talking Points" for each Sunday edition.)