Veteran Slams Phony Media ‘Outrage’ Over VA ‘Scandal’

By John Cory, Reader Supported News

They come for you with drum and fife
And all they ask
Is a piece of your life
Just enough for one little war
And one more for your mother
And two for your brother
And then we all fall down

he great media punditry and political pontificators are all aflutter over the VA fiasco from Phoenix and elsewhere. John McCain can’t run to the microphone fast enough to offer up his two cents while FOX, CNN and MSNBC are in full competitive outrage mode, each seeking to outdo the other with flashing chyrons of righteous fury. The circus is loud and shrill and full of sparkly shiny hollow indignation.

The America Legion has apparently called for the resignation of Gen. Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The smell of blood and blame is in the water.

I am unimpressed.

I can only say: Are you f**king kidding me?

Where have all of you politicos and pundits and so-called journalists been for the past forty years? With your America Strong nightly news features and your heartwarming family homecoming surprises at elementary schools, did you just choose to ignore the real stories of abandoned and ailing veterans because that would harsh your mellow and warm fuzzy patriotism?

Senator McCain and all of you elected representatives of “the people,” how many letters from veterans and families of veterans and spouses of veterans complaining about problems with the VA have your offices received over the last ten years? How about the last twenty years? How many veterans have asked for your help over the years? How many have you responded to directly and actually helped? How many veterans’ letters have gone unanswered, except maybe for a form letter reply as you then add their name to your mailing list for campaign fund raising?

I have a bitter view of the American Legion from personal experience dating back to the days they, in conjunction with the local VFW organizations where I lived at the time, sought to keep the longhaired-hippie Viet Nam vets from having membership in the one “true veterans of America” brotherhood. It was a dark time for the VFW and the American Legion back then, and that bitter rejection stayed with many Viet Nam vets. It is one of those poignant ironies in life: the WWII vets rejected and ridiculed Viet Nam vets even more so than all the apocryphal and mostly false tales of name calling and spitting by dirty rotten hippies and their Pinko anti-war protestors.

When it comes to veterans, the press, the public, the politicians, and the pundits, all suffer a willful amnesia until a new glittery VA crisis arises that offers click-bait headlines on the internet and draws ratings and eyeballs while everyone sputters patriotic mantras and talking points and shouts, “Off with their heads!” Then they all move on to the next sparkling sexy piece of tabloid infotainment.

That’s what will happen here. You can bet on it.

Don’t believe me?

The May 22, 1970 cover story in Life Magazine: “Our Forgotten Wounded.” The inside article was written by Charles Child with accompanying photos by Co Rentmeester and was titled: “From Vietnam to a VA Hospital Assignment to Neglect.” One photo revealed the heartbreak of vets in conditions so crowded they shared a room with trash cans. In another, a quadriplegic veteran lies naked on a bed surrounded by a growing pile of dirty laundry. Rats ran wild through the place. There was a photo of a sign that instructed workers: “Leaky Roof! Move Bed No. 6 when it rains!”

From the article:

Besides the dead, there are the wounded: 275,000 of them to date. A man hit in Vietnam has twice as good a chance of surviving as he did in Korea and World War II-helicopter teams evacuate the wounded faster, often within minutes, support hospitals perform miraculous repairs on injuries that tend to be more devastating than ever before. But having been saved by the best field medicine in history and given initial treatment in first-rate military facilities, one out of every seven U.S. servicemen wounded in Vietnam is fated to pass into the bleak backwaters of our Veterans Administration hospitals.

With 166 separate institutions, the VA hospital system is the biggest in the world. The 800,000 patients it treats in a year, mainly men wounded in earlier wars, range from cardiac to psychiatric cases. It is disgracefully understaffed, with standards far below those of an average community hospital. Many wards remain closed for want of personnel and the rest are strained with overcrowding. Facilities for long-term treatment and rehabilitation, indispensable for the kind of paralytic injuries especially common in this war of land mines and boobytraps, are generally inferior. At Miami’s VA hospital, while sophisticated new equipment sits idle for lack of trained personnel, patients may wait hours for needed blood transfusions. At the VA’s showplace hospital in Washington, D.C. a single registered nurse may minister to as many as 80 patients at a time. At the Wadsworth VA Hospital in Los Angeles, doctors who work there describe ward conditions as “medieval” and “filthy.”

Veterans Administration Director Donald E. Johnson insists publicly that veterans receive “care second to none.” The evidence is overwhelmingly against him. A five-month inquiry by a Senate subcommittee chaired by California’s Alan Cranston has documented gross inadequacies and laid the main blame directly on a series of cutbacks in the VA medical budget. This sum presently amounts to roughly $1.6 billion a year, somewhat less than the cost of one month’s fighting in Vietnam. Additional appropriations of $122 million for next year await probable congressional approval and could help ease the immediate crisis. But within the next 12 months 16,000 more men from Vietnam are expected to come under the Veterans Administration’s care.

Here is the Disabled American Veterans in 2005:

The Administration has proposed one of the most tight-fisted, miserly budgets for veterans programs in recent memory, said the 1.2 million member Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Instead of providing adequate funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system, the budget proposes to shift the cost burden onto the backs of veterans, making health care more expensive and even less accessible for millions of America’s defenders. “The VA medical system has been strained to the breaking point over the years because its appropriation has failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing costs of health care and increased patient loads,” said National Commander James E. Sursely. “As a result VA facilities across the country are cutting staff and limiting services even as the number of veterans seeking care is on the rise.”

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Or perhaps we should just say: SOSDD – same old shit different day.

There is always money for weapons, bombers, drones, and war. There is never money enough for the wounded and the weary and those in need of healing.

How can that be?

Before we chop off heads or fire all the top brass or blame Obama and Bush, maybe we should ask ourselves a few questions.

Do we even know how the VA health system works? How many good people work there? How many bad people? What happens to so-called whistleblowers that expose wrongdoing? What can we do to change “the system,” or have we become the system? Does anyone really care? How much do we care?

Do you remember Maude DeVictor? She was a godsend for veterans suffering from Agent Orange and the effects of dioxin. In the 1986 TV movie Unnatural Causes, Maude DeVictor was portrayed by one of my favorite actors, the wonderful Alfre Woodard. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. John Ritter starred, and his character was a composite of many veterans, including Paul Reutershan, who famously appeared on the Today Show in 1978 and uttered the now infamous: “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it.”

Paul Reutershan and many, many others simply died and thus went away, disappeared. But Maude DeVictor didn’t go away. She kept at it and became an expert on Agent Orange and a fierce advocate for suffering veterans even as she was fired from her job at the Chicago VA.

So here we are, forty-plus years down the road and another Veterans fiasco is in the headlines.

Does it matter?

Should I go on?

Should I write a part two of this piece and offer a ride through the VA health system and maybe give you a view through the eyes of a veteran or two? Will that help anyone understand and want to become involved in fixing things?

And should I offer a part three of this little series, to tell you what I see as possible solutions that maybe we all can present to our elected representatives? Maybe create a petition to be passed around and signed and forwarded to Congress and the White House?

Or should we just move on with a shrug that says nothing’s going to change?
Like all abandoned children of war,
These wounded and misbegotten
Are left broken and forgotten
The parade is over
The flag has been folded away
Or put up for sale

Here’s a bumper sticker: Support The Troops!
Have a nice trip
Embrace the suck – Get over it – Move on
Thank-you for your service!
Thanks for my service?
What am I, your goddamned waiter!

It don’t mean nothin’.

—Peace—

Republished with permission from Reader Supported News.