LEAD LETTER OF THE WEEK

Letter | VA problems endemic, not reflection of sitting president

June 8, 2014 

If you visit the VA Medical Center in Atlanta, you will see several huge concrete planters at the front door. Clearly, the planters are not there for decoration. They were strategically placed after a frustrated veteran drove his pick up truck through the glass door and into the lobby.

He had served in Viet Nam as a helicopter pilot and was seeking treatment for PTSD. That was 25 years ago. George Bush the First was President.

The veteran was a constituent of the Atlanta area Congressman I worked for. That coupled with the Congressman serving on the Veterans Affairs Committee of the House led to a deep involvement in that center and medical treatment for vets around the country.

Among other things, we found out, through whistle-blowing nurses, that floors had been closed at the Atlanta facility at the same time that administrators were getting bonuses.

Once in the system, veterans got outstanding care. The problem was getting into the system. Sound familiar?

My impression was then and is now that there is a culture in the VA medical branch that is stronger than any administration in the White House. It is a culture that sometimes puts the enhancement and advancement of administrators above the well being of veterans.

As a vet, I hope members of oversight committees in Congress will resist the urge to politicize the situation and to call for resignations at the top. The problem is ingrained and systemic. One of the hardest things to do in any organization is to change a culture.

The VA medical system has been overwhelmed by the last of the WW II vets, aging Korean War and Vietnam vets, and terribly hurt Iraq and Afghanistan vets whose injuries would have killed them in previous conflicts.

The VA has done a good job of dealing with alligators. Now its time to drain the swamp.

The writer lives in Pawleys Island.

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