North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Beckye Randall
Talk of the Town 

Veterans deserve better


The recent resignation of General Eric Shinseki as the head honcho of the Veterans Administration is another head-shaking result of the ongoing inability of that organization to get its act together.

Most of us probably wonder, are the problems with the VA health care system tied to a lack of financial resources, a lackadaisical workplace culture, poor leadership or simply a failure of the large, unwieldy system that has failed to keep up with technology?

I would guess it’s a combination of all these problems, and then some.

My husband is a disabled veteran who depends on the VA health care system, so I have some experience with this issue.

About three years ago he was “on the list” for a hernia repair, waiting more than four months for a surgical date. Within a few months, he was back on the list because the first surgery failed – the surgical mesh apparently ruptured. So after another three or four months, he was back at the VA Hospital in Seattle for repair of the repair.

Earlier this year he was afflicted with a terrible cough, making it hard to breathe. After trying unsuccessfully to reach his VA doctor by phone for several days, we made the trip to the Providence ER. Turns out, he had double pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for the next 10 days.

It took nearly eight months for him to be approved and fitted for knee braces from a private supplier because the ones the VA provided him didn’t fit and couldn’t be adjusted.

Delays. Unresponsiveness. Shoddy workmanship.

And yet we’ve been grateful to have the VA option, and therefore haven’t complained too much about the annoyances.

Our veterans deserve better, and we all know it. Congress has had several opportunities to support this critical lifeline for veterans’ care with additional funding, and they’ve chosen not to. Money is not always the answer, but sometimes it is.

The showboating going on now in congressional hearings won’t provide any answers, that’s for sure. Finger-pointing is useless unless it leads to productive solutions, and “productive” is a word this Congress doesn’t seem to understand.

I hope that, for the sake of my husband and the millions of other veterans who depend on VA health care, the leadership shakeup leads to accountability and improvements to the system, and not just political points.


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