Topics: Veterans Affairs

If this is what the federal government does to veterans, what will it do to you?

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Opinion,David Freddoso,Columnists,Veterans Affairs,Health Care

Earlier this week, I quietly celebrated the memory of Alfred A. Freddoso, a man I never met and about whom I know relatively little. He emigrated to the United States from Italy as a boy in the 1920s. He enlisted in the U.S. Army his early 20s, returned to his homeland as a soldier and was killed at Monte Cassino.

Upon his death, his older brother Anthony – my grandfather, who had already seen heavy combat action in the Pacific – was pulled from his unit and returned home, reportedly at the heated insistence of his irate mother.

Memorial Day is the day we honor those who served and died. In November, on Veterans' Day, we will honor all who served. Americans revere veterans – the ones who died, the ones who lived, the ones who who served in combat and those who were behind the lines. Around the time of our nation's founding, soldiers and standing armies were viewed with deep skepticism. Today, it's become part of our national character to honor military service.

That's what makes the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs so much more than just a political scandal. Having just sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to wars overseas in the last decade, America has to make good on the promises it made to them. We are not doing so, as this week's VA Inspector General report demonstrates.

When he first ran for president, President Obama promised to fix the VA. And let no one accuse him of doing nothing. The agency's funding has increased by 68 percent since he took office. The ranks of its employees have increased 22 percent.

Yet no number of people and no amount of money can fix simple bureaucratic malice, callousness, and lack of concern for human life.

The Washington Examiner's coverage of problems at the VA goes back far before the current scandal erupted - the one in which bureaucrats gamed the system and moved veterans to secret waiting lists in order to meet performance goals that would increase their pay. According to the new IG report, thousands of veterans just in the Phoenix area waited, on average, 115 days for an appointment with a primary care physician. As many as 40 died while waiting. But thanks to clever maneuvering of waiting lists and computer systems, bureaucrats avoided the heat and collected bonuses for supposedly hooking these same veterans up with a doctor within 30 days.

This particular wasn't limited to Phoenix - nor is it the only problem. Previously, the Examiner has reported on how the VA retaliates against whistleblowers who report issues dangerous to human life; on how VA cancer patients died due to shoddy care and treatment delays; on how VA administrators received bonuses and stellar performance records despite presiding over failure; on how nearly 20,000 veterans died in 2012 while waiting for a decision on compensation for injuries they received in the service of their country.

To add insult to injury, the Examiner also reported on how VA bureaucrats spent $50,000 on a Patton parody - to boost their morale. And the American Legion, which has been raising such issues, was targeted by the Obama IRS last year over its nonprofit status.

I know I've done little for my country compared to my grandfather, my Uncle Al, their contemporaneous comrades-in-arms, and those who have much more recently come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. More likely than not, you find yourself carrying the same debt of gratitude to others.

But think about this: If our federal government is too negligent and malicious to deliver care to people like them, what will it do to you and me if it ever it controls our health care?

DAVID FREDDOSO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is the former Editorial Page Editor for the Examiner and the New York Times-bestselling author of "Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Re-elect Barack Obama." He has also written two other books, "The Case Against Barack Obama" (2008) and "Gangster Government" (2011).
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