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One day a year Americans set aside a day of remembrance for those who gave all for God and country. A day whose true meaning often gets lost in a rush of barbeques and family outings. Even so, it is unlikely that those who died defending freedom would begrudge Americans enjoyment of it. Still, it is appropriate that those they fought and died for to spend at least a moment in quiet reflection on what others did for them. For certain those among us who have tasted combat and carry the scars of the battles they have fought will never forget their fallen comrades but neither should those left untouched by the ravages of war.

This memorial day additional tears were being shed, tears not only of sadness but of regret and shame as well. On a day for remembering those who died fighting for American, and even world, independence, freedom and security; thoughts must also go out to the families of those veterans who died not on a battlefield, but of neglect. It is a stain on the American conscience that such a thing as the Veterans Administration (VA) scandal was allowed to happen.

Despite politicians acting as they were caught off guard, this “new scandal” is actually an old one. For years critically ill patients have been shifted  from list to list until care is no longer needed; in other words, until they died. President Obama first mentioned the ongoing crime against America’s aging soldiers in 2005 and, as the Washington Times has reported, the President was briefed on the extent of the problem before he took office. Of course, President Obama does not share the blame alone, Bush had to have known about the abuses and did nothing as well. The victims, mostly from the Vietnam, Korean and even WWII eras., deserved better.

A system, once held up by the left as a shining example of government run healthcare, has become a warning instead. Running its own version of death panels, VA administrators made it look like all was well. When doctors or nurses tried to signal to the world something was wrong, they were drummed out of system and blacklisted. In the end, it seems to have been a criminal collusion between cold hearted bureaucrats and heartless politicians to suppress the truth that allowed things to go so wrong for so long.

The VA system has turned into what all bureaucracies eventually become, impersonal and uncaring. Why should people be surprised at what happened; after all, in all the world there is not a single example of a government run healthcare system that outperforms its private counterparts. The fact is, government run healthcare systems are usually the butt of jokes and deservingly so. This all begs the question, if those who fought for their country deserve the best care possible than why are they sent to a bureaucratic meat grinder to get that care? This is the question many are now asking as calls to shut down the VA hospitals and privatize the system get louder. It seems it is high time to give former soldiers the right to seek care near their homes and from doctors of their choosing.

The concept for the VA grew organically out of ideas and programs that go back to the Revolutionary War. At a time when few hospitals existed and a man’s family was the only safety net he had, the government got in the business of caring for soldiers. The system, now full of rot and institutionalized inefficiencies, was never really the best system but over time it has only gotten worse. While Memorial Day is all about those who never got to enjoy the freedom they fought for, the VA scandal reminds Americans they need to also contemplate the promises made to those who did.

“The Conservative Mind”

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