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JACK SIMPSON: VA's treatment of veterans shameful

Many older veterans learning of the latest allegations against the Veterans Administration are having a hard time understanding why an organization that is supposed to provide veteran’s benefits is busy lying and juggling the books in an effort to deny returning vets promised benefits.

Veterans at the Phoenix VA Hospital were reportedly having to wait 115 days for care while hospital records showed they only had to wait 24 days. Someone was juggling statistics and there is no other way to describe this other than inexcusable.

Early on the President did not call for any resignations, even when the VA seemed dysfunctional and mismanaged. There was no sense of urgency to correct the problem.

People wanted investigations. Senator and veteran John McCain (R-Ariz.) early on said it was time for Secretary Shinseki to go or be fired. The senator felt heads should roll to help restore faith in the VA and to show veterans someone cared about their suffering and their problems. It took until May 30th for Secretary Shinseki to submit his resignation.

After World War II, some veterans had problems with benefits, but for the most part were thankful at how they were treated by the VA. Personally, I was pleased to receive medical and educational benefits and felt the VA tried to respond to my needs in a positive way. I would hope current VA employees will correct these problems and treat today’s veterans in a like manner.

It is a shame for those who sacrificed for their country to feel disconnected from society and forgotten. I personally have spoken with several soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were wounded there. They are still awaiting action on their medical claims. I would hope that the claims of these two heroes are not among those buried in the VA’s files and being promised, delayed and denied.

Budget cuts, personnel and facilities shortages have contributed to the problems of today’s returning veterans. Delays by the VA using gimmicks and falsifying records to keep from treating needy veterans is not something worthy of a grateful nation. God Bless these veterans and their families. They deserve better and Congress should demand that these abuses be corrected immediately.

Veterans recovering from the wounds of battle, suffering stress, enduring economic hardships need promised help, not crafty politicians figuring ways to deny them earned benefits. Heads need to roll. Secretary Shinseki has shown the way. Let us see our elected and appointed officials do the right thing – and today, not tomorrow!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.