Deja Vu All Over Again-
History Repeats Itself
by Jim Strickland
I was in Atlanta Thursday, participating with a panel of attorneys and other professionals to teach our audience a bit about issues at the VA.
As it so often happens, the audience was aghast at some of what they heard. When we explained the backlog, the denial rate, the errors made in adjudications and what most veterans will face as they seek disability compensation, I could see a familiar look...disbelief.
When I explain the reality of the plight of veterans to the uninitiated, they have legitimate reasons to question my veracity. No American wants to believe that the VA is the enemy. These men and women who have served are our heroes. We put magnets on our cars for them. Once or twice each year we take a day off in their honor. How could it be that a branch of the same government that sent them off to war could be so callous and inefficient when they return? It doesn’t seem possible.
Then I see the acceptance. There are entirely too many of us who repeat the same facts. We speak of lengthy delays. Not the 6 months delay that VA would like you to accept as truth but the delays of 2 and 3 years that seem routine to those of us in the trenches.
The audience grows quiet as they begin to understand that there really was an event of mass shredding of veterans documents at any number of Regional Offices and that it appeared widespread and acceptable to many VA staffers.
I saw some anger as we explained that it’s never a surprise for one veteran to find another veterans important documents in his mail. It’s hard to accept that this is our world.
The attorneys and advocates who work in the civilian sector are used to watching as the system provides their clients with due process. Due process isn’t a difficult concept. It says that each person must be provided rights and protections as the law says they should. That the VA so often ignores due process for veterans is shocking to our audience. How can that be allowed?
If America holds veteran in such high esteem, why are these abuses continuing? Is this a new phenomena that after the soldier is used up that they get thrown away? Damaged goods that don’t march around in a uniform and stay standing tall aren’t very popular in America. It’s hard to gaze upon the veteran who has one leg. That fellow with the PTSD seems angry and we best avoid him. She’s weeping again about her alleged rape and sexual abuse at the hands of her comrades...let’s avoid her, what can we do anyhow?
We like our soldiers shiny and new and unbroken.
History repeats, time and again. Remember if you will...
I suppose it’s appropriate to begin the list in 2007 at Walter Reed where we read, “Problems at Walter Reed have been known to officials at the highest level for some time.”
It seems that my point is made when I close the list with news of the Northport Veterans Hospital in 1945, when it was reported that “rather serious abuse” had been occurring there.
Across the span of years little has changed with what happens to the soldier when the uniform is gone. There seems always enough money to go to war, never enough to care for the lives so badly damaged by it.
Personally, I can no longer tell a young person that to join the military is a way to get a good start in life. That’s regrettably no longer true. The fact is that the promises made will be promises broken. There is no denying that.
Our veterans deserve better but history proves that won’t happen. If you are denied and disrespected over and over again by the institution you thought was there to help you, you aren’t experiencing a deja vu moment, you’re watching history repeat itself.