Why does it always take a highly-public, media-driven feeding frenzy and catastrophe like the VA “waiting list” story to get our elected officials in Washington, D.C., off the dime to do what they should have been doing, all along? Serious problems within the VA medical system are nothing new. It’s been building up for some time.
Sen. Tom Udall, in his sixth year as a U.S. senator, is not newly advised to these problems, regardless of what their PR spin says. He and his staff had to have known, in detail, the difficulties faced by many veterans seeking health care, but it took a national exposure of a systemic tragedy to get them to at least appear fully engaged.
That’s shameful incompetence. Just as much as the senior administrators who are guilty of creating this debacle.
Not only is the loss of life and the suffering among our veterans a true American tragedy, but add to that the insult and lynch-mob type mentality that is now being leveled full-force at the system and is sadly catching the men and women who provide care to our veterans at the VA, in the crossfire as well.
The VA medical system is home to over 1,700 sites of care across the country. Nearly 9 million veterans are served by that system every year.
That is a staggering volume when you consider the many funding and logistical challenges faced by the medical professionals who work within that system and try their best, every day, to serve those men and women who have so selflessly, served us.
Approximately 30 percent of VA employees are veterans themselves.
For more than 30 years, I served my country as a Marine Reserve Officer and, in-between frequent periods of active duty, built an aviation business that prides itself on a culture of values and service and recognizes the contributions of our employees who are veterans.
One of the frequent flight missions we arrange is an air ambulance and medical transport program for veterans who must be moved between VA facilities in order to receive the care they need.
Our team at CSI Aviation works tirelessly with the professional staff members at various VA Hospitals throughout the country and I can tell you from first-hand experience, there are lives saved every hour of every day, by these dedicated people.
As an example, on this past New Year’s Eve, the CSI team worked with some exceptional VA care providers at two VA facilities in the southwest, to successfully fly the six-year-old daughter of an active-duty serviceman as she was in renal failure and in need of emergency, life-saving care. CSI and the VA move a lot of children of military personnel for specialty care.
On this particular flight mission, we found out at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve that we had to move a young girl, and we did it. Nobody, not on our team or on the VA team, rested until this child was where she needed to be, and we didn’t finish until well after midnight.
This is just one of many stories I could tell about the hard work VA staff members do every day in service of our veterans.
Americans have every right to demand accountability, not only from negligent senior staff, but also from elected officials like Udall who should have known about these problems and acted sooner.
But, in getting accountability from administrators and career politicians who oversee the system, I sincerely hope the VA’s hard working employees aren’t tarnished in the eyes of Americans. They were victims, too.