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Letter: Republicans in Congress the source of VA ‘scandal’

I am a retired Army veteran of the Vietnam War. I am in a unique position of being eligible for medical care through Medicare and Tricare. As such, I could, if I so decided, avoid using the Veterans Affairs health care system altogether. To the contrary, I cling to the Fargo VA Medical Center for practically all my health care needs because I have full confidence that they are serving my best interests. I can’t imagine how any other community health care system could be more caring, or serve me better.

I am outraged at how the VA was portrayed in the so-called VA scandal. The scandal is not with the VA but with our self-serving members of Congress, especially those in the Republican Party. Even as much as they would have liked, nowhere could they come up with accusations of substandard care for those veterans already in the system. The “scandal” centered on those eligible veterans who are experiencing long waits to enter the system.

Congress, with the thumping of fists, and expressions of love for our military veterans, showed feigned outrage at the VA for falsely reporting waiting times for veterans to receive initial treatment. Are these self-serving members of Congress so dense that they didn’t know that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were overwhelming the funding, personnel staffing and facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Even that is not an excuse because military service organizations like Disabled American Veterans pounded them daily with pleas for help. Did they really need to see a report before they could act, and ask their own questions?

The truth is that Congress did know that the VA was overwhelmed and could not meet all the needs of the thousands of new veterans entering the system from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These now-outraged members of Congress did have several chances to honor our veterans, and do the right thing, but failed to do so in favor of their own political agendas.

Several months ago, Republicans voted to delay a bill that would have made the most significant changes in decades to meet the health care needs of veterans, including the vast number of additional veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There was no outrage then. After all, who could have guessed that the VA system was overburdened?

Now after the “VA scandal,” it appears that an enlightened Congress will pass this same bill almost unanimously. Democrats are sinners as well, but shame on the Republican Party for putting their agenda of hate above their appreciation of veterans.

Will there ever come a day when members of Congress muster up enough courage to vote their conscience, and not just the party line?

Ohnstad lives in Kindred, N.D.