June 2, 2014
By Senator Richard J. Ross
The ongoing concern with the lack of sufficient care and timely processing of services has given way to outrage over many systemic abuses at Veterans Administration facilities. It is as troubling to me as it should be to all Americans that those who have served our country are receiving anything less than the best care we can provide.
More than 40 of our veterans have recently died while awaiting admission and care in the VA. This figure is unacceptable, as is the fact that everyday nearly 22 veterans take their own lives. It is clear our veterans are not receiving the care or services they are entitled to from our federal government. And if the VA does not route out any and all disconnection in service due to inaction or insufficient action, then our President and Congress must step up and make drastic changes in the oversight of the VA and its case management process.
More troubling are the criminal allegations that VA officials tried to cover up the tragic results of this inaction, or possible deception, on the part of oversight authorities as to the success of their programs.
To that end, I, along with 39 of my legislative colleagues will be submitting a bi-partisan and bi-cameral resolution put forth by Representative Hank Naughton (D-Clinton) that calls for the further investigation of the VA and the alleged attempts to cover-up waiting lists and backlogs. It is time for our federal government to address the disgraceful state of veteran affairs in our nation and remedy it once and for all.
My colleagues and I plan to work alongside the Massachusetts Legislative Veterans Caucus and the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Fund to see that our voices on the state level are heard on the federal level.
Some concerns needing to be addressed relate to the circumstances surrounding the recent resignations of VA Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Recent testimony revealed allegations of poor treatment and lengthy waits for veterans seeking care, falsified documents, and reports of sizable yearly bonuses, promotions and raises being awarded to Petzel and other high ranking officials in the Department. These actions are outrageous and must be dealt with swift and severe consequences.
While Shinseki’s resignation is a step forward and a serious gesture indicating that the American people will not accept poor treatment of their veterans, it does not solve the problem. This is why my colleagues and I are calling upon the President to launch a comprehensive investigation and enact solutions.
As President George Washington, a veteran himself said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”
I believe in Washington’s wise and prophetic words of support for those who answered the call to put their own lives on hold and in harm’s way in the hope of preserving America’s posterity and its citizens’ safety and freedom. Our veterans were asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, and many did. But we must take care of those that have served and are struggling each and every day.
The Commonwealth has always prided itself on being a national leader in taking care of our veterans, so it is only fitting that we lead the charge on pressuring the Federal Government to take action. We have much work to do, but with the ever growing support of the people behind us, reforming the VA will be a reality.