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Demand Better Care of Veterans

If allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs are valid, Congress should take a hard look at the approximately $220 billion in taxpayer dollars the VA requested from this year’s budget.

A department that cannot be trusted even to verify whether it is hiring people who are properly certified for their jobs caring for our nation’s military veterans may require more oversight.

According to a lawsuit filed by the family of one of the veterans believed to have died under questionable circumstances at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, the person of interest in the case was hired as a certified nursing assistant, despite not actually holding that certification.

There are other allegations of negligence on the part of the hospital, including failure to meet a reasonable standard of care in discovering, diagnosing and treating the sudden severe hypoglycemia that may have killed as many as 10 veterans — all on the same floor of the hospital, all during the early morning hours of the night shift, and all while the person of interest was working.

By the way, no one has yet been arrested in connection with the deaths, though the VA assures families the person of interest is no longer working there. That is about as much information as families are getting right now. In fact, a recent meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations revealed members of Congress are getting a little frustrated with the procedure the VA is following in alerting them to and addressing problems.

For years now, veterans and their families have had reason to suspect they might not be getting the best medical care — in fact, might even be in danger — if they stick with the integrated health care system the federal government promised would take care of those who were willing to sacrifice everything for their country.

Changes in leadership have not worked. Nothing seems to hammer home the message that VA officials must do a better job of taking care of veterans.

But in making its request for that $220 billion, the VA Secretary Robert Wilkie claimed “the budget request will ensure the nation’s veterans receive high-quality health care and timely access to benefits and services.”

Perhaps it is time for Congress to tighten the purse strings. Maybe that will make an impression.

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