After the VA administration confirmed allegations that 18 veterans died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VA hospital system, the FBI announced last week that it would be investigating those and other allegations in Phoenix. The FBI will begin at that hospital because that was where the problems were first noticed.
FBI Director Comey also said that the investigation might not be limited to Phoenix and that they would follow it wherever it led them. Other than that, Comey did not elaborate on the investigation, simply affirming that the FBI was beginning a criminal investigation. He announced this investigation on Wednesday in response to questioning by the House Judiciary Committee.
The VA’s Inspector General’s investigation had found evidence that could be considered criminal activity and requested assistance from the US Department of Justice (DoJ). According to law enforcement officials the Justice Department asked the FBI to help review documents in the case.
By reclassifying this as a criminal investigation, hopefully, the DoJ is signaling that they are going to take this situation more seriously than they have the other scandals that have plagued the Obama administration. Unfortunately, this will be very much a case of “only time will tell,” and we are going to have to adopt a wait-and-see approach to this problem.
The VA Inspector General’s report said Phoenix has been the center of the ever-widening scandal involving over-long or fabricated wait times that have put 1,700 veterans “at risk of being lost or forgotten.” It also put forth a long list of corrections and recommendations to improve the treatment and wait times of veterans seeking help at any VA hospital. The report also said that over 100,000 veterans have had their care delayed.
In this age, where news stories don’t last a week, there is a danger that when public focus shifts to the latest issue, older situations can be safely ignored. In this situation, though, ignoring the problem can lead to more veteran deaths and more delays in health care. For our veterans, whether wounded on the battlefield or wanting the care they were promised when they served their country, this is simply unacceptable.
“How we treat our veterans… is a reflection on ourselves and our society.”
We have a duty to protect our veterans. They protected our society when we needed them and many paid sacrifices that are inexplicable to civilians. Giving them the same protection, when they need it, is the least our society can do.
How we treat our veterans, whether they need care because of problems they encountered while serving or after, is a reflection on ourselves and our society. Although I have never needed the services of the VA, I always knew they were there and available if my situation became bad enough that regular insurance couldn’t cover it. I don’t know that, now.
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