“The soul of a nation is determined by how it treats its veterans.” -JFK
Watching the events unfold on Sunday in Washington, DC, gave me pause to think about this line. But the problem isn’t so much that our veterans cannot visit the memorials, or the gravesites, which were erected by raising private funds; instead, it is how we care for the veteran now in the VA, army and naval hospitals throughout our nation.
Veterans are still able to get inpatient care at hospitals and mental health counseling at vet centers and outpatient clinics because Congress approved funding for VA health care programs one year in advance. Operators are also staffing the crisis hotline.
The VA says its efforts to reduce the backlog in disability benefit claims have been stalled because claims processors are no longer being required to work 20 hours of overtime per month. Access to regional VA offices has been suspended, making it harder for veterans to get information about their benefits and the status of their claims. If the shutdown continues into late October, the VA warns that compensation and pension payments to veterans will be halted.
Another sensitive area where the VA has seen a slowdown is in burials at national cemeteries. According to Dillon, the internments will continue at the historic cemetery but on a reduced schedule.
Daniel Dellinger, national commander of The American Legion, said in a statement released Monday afternoon that “Congress has an obligation to put veterans ahead of politics.”
Ultimately, as Commander In Chief, the responsibility and accountability for the manner in which active, reserved AND RETIRED military are treated falls on President Obama, since the Department of Veterans Affairs is a Cabinet-level entity. He has the final say on what happens, not the Secretary.
On this issue, he cannot blame the Republicans, the Senate, his wife or even George Bush. It is his choice alone to decide where monies allocated to the Executive branch can be spent during this period of austerity.
Here is an idea: since the initial Obamacare registration is falling on its face, why not shut it down for a year and use the monies instead for those people who EARNED their benefits by risking their lives for the freedoms enjoyed by the rest of us? VA benefits are NOT an entitlement, while Obamacare is.
I leave you today with another quote by JFK. Perhaps, we can all take a lesson and realize that JFK may have been a Democrat, but he was an American first. A Great American.
Today’s politicians need to take a lesson.