Rachel Maddow’s well-researched piece goes way back to pre-Iraq War. She highlights what seems to have been a continuous undermining of General Eric Shinseki for speaking truth to power. He correctly estimated the number of troops that would be necessary to occupy Iraq to the dismay of his bosses. Soon after, Gen. Shinseki was no longer President Bush’s Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
President Obama picked Gen. Shinseki to lead the VA because of his stature and his fearlessness to buck prevailing thought in order to do what is right for the troops. It was evident then as many pointed out that the VA was antiquated and underfunded. In other words, political resolve was necessary, not only by a president, but by a Congress willing to institute changes and increased funding.
The VA budget has increased by more than 50 pecent since the president came into office. It went from $100 billion to $154 billion. Does that mean that throwing money at the problem is not what is required? Not so fast; the number of people eligible for VA benefits went from 400,000 to 918,000. That is more than a 125 percent increase in eligible recipients and counting. We sent thousands into unnecessary wars. Thousands were maimed. We are a lot better at keeping our soldiers alive than caring for them humanely when they leave the battlefield.
The VA was given an impossible task given its structure, funding levels, and most importantly the number of bodies needing its services because our leaders are fighting wars in a vacuum. They choose to forget that the fighters of those wars will need substantial care. To solve the impossible task, administrators likely fraudulently cooked the books to give a semblance of success. Of course the veterans ultimately pay the price with their health and their lives.
Rachel Maddow had a very prescient statement:
There is a modern American dysmorphia when it comes to veterans. We see things that aren’t really there. We tell ourselves that we are doing things that we are not really doing. We have a poetry in this country about our love and respect for veterans that is not matched by the prose of how veterans are actually treated.Rachel went on to point out that Congress cut $13 billion from VA health care as soldiers were invading Iraq in 2003. Even as the war became bloodier and it was evident that it would be long-lasting, the claim in Washington was that no more additional resources would be required for the VA.
Ultimately the VA problem is a lack of resources. They will study it to death to avoid their ultimate responsibility. Conservatives will talk about privatization. Liberals in Congress will cower as they seek someone’s head on a platter. All will ask for the head of Eric Shinseki. But no one will tell Americans the truth. We love to send our citizens to war. We have no interest in paying the taxes necessary to take care of all the ills that come with war and the veteran that has experienced real war.