The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

June 12, 2014

VA scandal requires more forceful action

At Veterans Affairs medical centers throughout the country, lying, cheating bureaucrats are hoping the buck stops with former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. It should not.

Dozens of veterans died while on waiting lists for VA health care, even as agency officials — including Shinseki — were being assured wait times were minimal. Because some VA managers were so good at covering up their misdeeds, the actual toll may have been higher.

Shinseki stepped down from his post after apologizing for what happened on his watch. The Vietnam veteran and former Army chief of staff’s record suggests he was sincere in his regret.

That is not so in the cases of VA officials who forced veterans to wait many months for critical health care, then falsified records to indicate delays never occurred. At the same time some of them were pleading they needed more money, the lies they fed to Congress seemed to indicate everything was fine at VA medical centers.

If history is any guide, Shinseki will be the sacrificial lamb who saves the real culprits from paying any meaningful price for their crimes. Most scandals in government end with a few retirements, some expressions of outrage by members of Congress and pledges by presidents of both parties to clean up the mess.

Then it is back to business as usual.

That simply will not do when our nation’s veterans are the victims.

Members of Congress who were told years ago of lying about VA wait lists have some explaining to do. So does President Barack Obama, whose aides heard about the scandal before he took office.

Why was nothing done about it?

More important, why should veterans and their fellow Americans who mean it when we say the nation owes them a debt believe assurances the deadly scandal will be cleaned up — when we have heard nothing of plans to prosecute VA bureaucrats who committed fraud regarding wait lists?

Americans ought to be mad as hell about that.

If reports to date are true, some veterans went to their graves prematurely because of the abuses.

Then, those responsible should be going to unemployment lines and in some cases, prison cells.

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