Adam Kokesh, on his podcast last week, repeated the mantra over and over again that the US government does not care about veterans, period. He didn’t mince words, back down, or try to make it appear as if he meant something else by his statement, and he didn’t qualify his remarks in any way. Upon reflection of the past few years, it’s hard to argue that Kokesh is wrong. In fact, it’s downright impossible.
It’s a shame it took a scandal in the Veteran’s Administration to open the rest of the country’s eyes, but thankfully they’re at least trying to understand things. The horrors of a bureaucracy so steeped in looking good on paper mistreating soldiers is so aggravating that it has made people take notice that things are a mess. Take, for instance, this paragraph from the recent Inspector General’s report on the recent scandal.
Staff at two VA medical facilities deleted consults without full consideration of impact to patients. The first facility deleted pending consults in excess of 90 days without adequate reviews by clinical staff. Schedulers working at the second facility cancelled provider consults without review by clinical staff.
Or maybe if that doesn’t convince you, maybe this will…
Schedulers go into the scheduling program, find an open appointment, ask the veteran if that appointment would be acceptable, back out of the scheduling program, and enter the open appointment date as the veteran’s desired date of care. This makes the wait time of an established patient 0 days.
Does that sound like a government that “cares” about veterans?
I used to be a rabid right-wing warhawk who cheered when soldiers were sent to fight in another country for the red white and blue, but over time I soured on it as I realized that they were simply being sent somewhere with no clear goal in the interest of spreading “democracy” to countries that didn’t want it as we spent billions of dollars rebuilding a country after we destroyed it with weapons whose aftermath made the environment of those countries nearly uninhabitable. Afghanistan and Iraq have simply become money pits and cess pools of political back scratching and favor-granting. There is no blooming of freedom or democracy in either country and all we’ve done is create a situation where we repeatedly admit that once we leave these countries, they’re probably going to return to what they were before we got there so the only way to stop that is to stay there.
Just like all those pesky anti-war folks said.
But this goes deeper than sending people off to a crap lie of a war with no clear goal in sight, then mistreating them when we get home. This is even bigger than that, and the implications are far more profound. Let’s talk about the “shutdown” of the government that happened. Surely you remember it, right? Chaos reigned supreme in the United States and we wandered through apocalyptic streets and begged for the return of our overlords.
Oh, we didn’t? Oh.
Well, during that panicked time for federal government employees, a large portion of whom have no meaningful function (non-essential employees is the most amusing term ever; why are we hiring anyone who is non-essential?), we had every Senator and Representative (and the President) grabbing whatever camera crew they could find to tell us that if the shutdown didn’t end soon, veterans wouldn’t get health care and military paychecks would be delayed. Never once did the President say he would cut the benefits for people who get federal funding for their healthcare, housing, or any other number of handouts. No, when given the chance to talk about things that wouldn’t happen in the event of a shutdown, the first thing to talk about (and in some cases, the only one) was the inevitable decline in care given to men and women who were sent abroad in the name of our country.
Does that seem right to you?
If we cared about veterans at all, their care would be untouchable, and instead we played political chicken with it as welfare kings and queens around the country continued in their handout hoarding as if nothing had changed at all. Does it strike you as fair that people we send abroad to fight for this country would have to take a backseat to someone whose sole purpose in life is to receive handouts? Because it certainly doesn’t sit well with me at all.
Finally, there is the cause celebre of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Remember when we read, way back in 2007 before our country was set to be saved by The Great One and how our evil President wasn’t doing enough to make sure veterans were getting the proper level of care there? I sure do. You couldn’t escape the story in any fashion and now, how we are standing on the precipice of an even worse scandal (specifically the fact that not only does the treatment suck, but that it takes forever and employees of the VA are actively covering up their failures systematically) and here we are again “surprised by it.”
Walter Reed Army Medical Center is the largest facility of its type in this country and yet we know that it has, essentially, failed those it was chartered to take care of. Are we outraged as a country? Not particularly, because we stopped talking about it a mere few months after it happened aside from a spattering of stories that have cropped up since and occasionally in the context of the current scandal.
Kokesh’s point is absolutely right when you look at it in context of recent events and recent-past events. If this was a country that cared about its veterans, firstly we wouldn’t send soldiers off to aimless foreign wars and keep them abroad for years without a defined purpose and a timeline for returning them back home to their family and their community. Of course, we don’t send them abroad with a plan, and we often do that with the wrong motivations.
Secondly, we would make sure that when these folks do come home, the treatment they need for being forced at gunpoint to go to another country and be paid killers would be available in abundance. We don’t do that, either.
Finally, we would talk more about it as something other than a way to score political points. In 2007, the revelations were used as a political hammer with which to bludgeon President Bush. Today, the VA scandal is being used to bludgeon President Obama. In the end, once the political capital to be gained runs out, the next scandal will be the story of the day and this one will be forgotten. Real reforms may never happen, and things may still be broken going forward but imagine if the welfare system was broken and we couldn’t give SNAP, AFDC, or Section 8 vouchers to people. Imagine the outrage that would create amongst the recipient class?
That alone demonstrates the difference between how we handle those that have earned some fair level of care and those who simply collect a benefit for existing. Do you know why?
Because Adam Kokesh is 100% right. The United States simply does not care about its veterans.
Header Image from US Army Africa on Flickr