I am sure that most of you are aware of all the problems with the VA Health Care System.
This has been all over the news for the last few weeks including the resignation of VA Secretary Shinseki. I will give him credit for his outstanding military service. But he did not fare well as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. However, he is not the only one at fault. There are MANY others who have lied, falsified information, all so they could keep their jobs and some even got a bonus! The tragedy is in how many have died and how many will suffer needlessly because medical appointments were not scheduled in a timely manner.
This is an underlying issue that has gone on for some time. You can read the information yourself in the interim report from the Office of the Inspector General at: http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-14-02603-178.pdf. Additional information and links can be found on the American Legion national site at: www.legion.org. Of course there are a lot of good, dedicated staff within the VA medical system. It needs to be reorganized and effectively managed. Some staff just outright need to be fired.
A related concern is the processing of VA claims. In December of 2013, The American Legion challenged the VA’s statistics for claims processing accuracy at its regional offices (VAROs), which stands at about 90 percent. The Legion testified to Congress on Dec. 4 that its own research indicated accuracy rates for claims processing at many VAROs were substantially lower.
For example, out of 75 claims files reviewed last March of 2013 by the Legion at the Baltimore VARO, 48 of them were found to have errors or were improperly developed – an accuracy rate of only 36 percent. At the Oakland, Calif., VARO, 26 of 36 claims examined in May had similar problems – an accuracy rate of 27.8 percent. Again, another area of the VA that needs to be reviewed and corrected. Additional information is available at: http://www.legion.org/veteransbenefits/218057/va-claims-question-accuracy.
Our veterans in need deserve much better treatment from our government. As noted, these issues are not new. It is about time that the government, including Congress, addresses these issues. Congress has oversight and must take action. The VA Management Accountability Act, which would make it easier to fire incompetent officials, was approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate chose to kill the bill. All concerned citizens need to contact their US Senators and members of the House of Representatives to get this or a similar bill enacted.
Let us remember that 70 years ago on June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of France began at Normandy. The Allied forces went on to defeat the Axis powers. Do your children and grandchildren know about this event and what followed? Do they even know about World War II? What I see on the news and even in talking to some of today’s youth is scary. They do not know much about US History. And we live in Massachusetts where the original tea party was held. And the “shot heard around the world” on April 19,1775 at the battles of Lexington and Concord. You may or may not like history but we are all part of history as we live our daily lives. We owe a large debt of gratitude to our World War II veterans. Personally I think a big thank you is due to those who are still with us.
Going back a year, it is appropriate to again ask ourselves: Flag Day. What is it all about? Why should we care?
According to Wikipedia, Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. The United States Army also celebrates the Army birthday on this date; Congress adopted “the American Continental Army” after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole on June 14, 1775. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the flag was permissible under freedom of speech.
As noted on the American Legion national website, www.legion.org, an amendment giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States., H.J. Res 47, was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. The resolutions reads, “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
I would urge all of you to contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors of H.J. Res. 47. If they already are co-sponsors, please thank them for their support of the amendment. In past years, Representatives Lynch, Neal, Keating and McGovern have supported this bill. But why? Some say it is just a piece of cloth. Yes, it is a piece of cloth. But it is the symbol of our nation. It flies not only on government and military installations but many of us have it at our homes. It is a symbol of hope, freedom and democracy. And those who are against it burn it in the streets. Since 1776 it has been our symbol. Countless men and women have fought and died for “Old Glory”. When veterans are buried, it covers their casket and is later presented to the family, “on behalf of a grateful nation”. The stars and stripes represent who and what we are as a nation. And I along with many of you believe this is the greatest nation on this earth.
Please join me in making our voices heard to our local, state and national elected officials. May God Bless our troops and their families.
John Lenotte, Commander American Legion Post 4 Haverhill, Past Department Commander.