A Perspective on the VA

As a veteran, I have been observing the ongoing events at the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than a passing interest.  Secret lists, overwhelmed medical facilities, a seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy, misguided compensation for questionable management practices – the hits just never seem to keep coming when it comes to news about he VA.

As a veteran, I am also a consumer of the VA’s programs: I was fortunate to be able to use the GI Bill for school, I go to a VA medical clinic for my checkups, and I engage with VA representatives who work hard every day to help veterans find jobs.

For me it is an interesting dichotomy.  I am neither a VA basher nor a VA cheerleader, but instead I am simply one of the approximately 22 million men and women in the United States who fall under the purview of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  And, to be quite honest, my experience has been a good one.

Because of the VA I was able to attend the University of Colorado to pursue my bachelor’s degree and, twenty years later, the University of Southern California and attain a Masters degree in Business Administration.  The nagging physical conditions that I incurred as a result of 27 years in uniform are covered by the VA medical system, and I have never had a really negative experience in obtaining care or the quality of the care that I have received.  I bought a house using a VA loan.  Twice.  I have a host of benefits as a result of my service; things ranging from access to state and federal parks for free (or at least at a discount) to increased opportunities for my children when they pursue college on their own.

The VA has some real problems, of that there is no doubt.  Eric Shinseki, an honorable man, retired general, and decorated combat veteran, was necessarily sacrificed on the altar of responsibility that comes with being the man in charge, and his ouster certainly sends a clear message that the VA will be accountable for its performance.

As it should be.

But let’s not forget for a moment the millions of veterans who are receiving the benefits that they have earned by wearing the cloth of the nation, the overwhelming majority of which are administered by dedicated and professional men and women who work at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Overgeneralization paints those who work diligently and assiduously with the same brush of those who are dishonest and unengaged, and to paint them all with the same brush does a disservice that the countless dedicated and hard working people at the VA do not deserve.

So remember that the VA is doing a tremendous amount of really great work for veterans even though some elements of the organization have failed to meet their obligation.  There is a baby in that bathwater- make sure it doesn’t get thrown out!