General Eric K. Shinseki, a decorated four star general is currently in charge of a very over stressed Veterans’ Administration. He is taking all the heat for the failure of VA Hospitals around the country. I was confused why Obama’s former adviser on environmental matters and CNN pundit, Van Jones would tweet, If I were Shinseki, I would… get my resume in very good shape. Why would a Democrat bash a man mercilessly hampered by the GOP’s efforts to sabotage everything Obama attempts? Why would he buy into this charade parroted by media talking heads and surrender to the Right?
Like so many pundits, Van Jones must have forgotten recent history, a tactic of Bush apologists. Shinseki tried, mostly in vain, to encourage the Bush Administration to act responsibly. In 2003, General Shinseki warned the Bush Administration that victory in Iraq would require more troops than were being deployed for the invasion. Not only was his original assessment vindicated when President Bush announced the Surge in 2007, he warned there was a shortage of doctors and medical personnel in the VA that rendered the system incredibly ill-prepared for conflicts of that magnitude. For instance, out of 84,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by VA, only half, about 42,000, had their disability claim approved by VA.
Bush’s political appointees at the VA actively fought against mental health claims. His appointees also obstructed scientific research into the causes of Gulf War illnesses dating back 18 years to Operation Desert Storm and opposed medical research on treatment for 210,000 of those veterans. In May 2007, Bush threatened to veto legislation that sought a 10 percent—$3.2 billion—increase, calling it too expensive. Bush proposed a 2 percent increase, far below what lawmakers and VA officials said was needed to treat a huge increase in traumatic brain injury and PTSD cases. So that would certainly account for a short-staffed VA. Bush asserted he doubled the funding for the VA, but he failed to disclose the number of veterans seeking VA healthcare had doubled, from 2.7 million to 5.5 million!
When Bush broke his silence this past March, he referred to the brain injury as simply Post-Traumatic Stress, omitting “Disorder” to minimize the severity of the condition. The refusal of the medicaid expansion continues to hurt vets in Red States where spiteful GOP governors choose to deny coverage for so many in need. There are over 5,000,000 Americans who won’t get much-needed care, and roughly a quarter of a million are our war veterans. If Congress allocated enough money to the care of our veterans they created with 13 years of war, this problem would not even exist. Ignoring veterans and needy Americans in favor of the enrichment of corporations and millionaires is a tragic blemish on our history. Support the troops doesn’t mean just support the WAR. It means take care of our brave veterans for the rest of their lives, no matter what the cost. Secretary Shinseki is well-suited to fix these problems, but he needs the money to do it.