On Veterans Day, try not to be one of those people whose praise of veterans is pious and patriotic virtue signaling.
If you can, do something real. Try to make your devotion to our nation's military volunteers more meaningful. Give to veterans charities. Volunteer your time to help the wounded and their families. If you own a business, make an effort to look for and hire qualified veterans returning from war. Heaven knows, there is no shortage of them.
Not all of us have the money, time, or means to do these things. But everyone eligible to vote, or even just capable of speaking out, can and should help veterans through civic participation. That means voting and speaking out about the need to fix the disastrous, broken, and toxic Department of Veterans Affairs. Because if our government doesn't do something tangible to fix it, it will prove us unworthy of the sacrifices our veterans made.
Going on four years now, beginning with the wait-times scandal of 2014, Americans have gained a much better sense of how a self-seeking and unaccountable bureaucracy can damage the morale of returning soldiers. The agency has proven to be a viper's nest of waste, corruption, malfeasance, negligent deception, malingering, inexcusable hiring practices, retaliation against whistleblowers, and other practices that verge on medical malpractice.
Former President Barack Obama responded to the outrages by forcing out his first VA secretary and appointing a business-minded manager to replace him. This seemed sensible, but Robert McDonald was quickly guilty of Stockholm Syndrome — he sided with the agency that had captured him. Not only did he fail to punish almost anyone involved in a system-wide scandal, but he also became one of the loudest defenders of his agency's dysfunctional, malignant bureaucracy. He denied needing any more power to dispose of bad apples, and at one point even asserted that wait times don't matter.
President Trump came to office only after making a lot of big promises to veterans. And so far, we've seen a bit of real progress. The VA's new secretary, David Shulkin, has begun cleaning house, from the top of the agency to the bottom. The most significant improvement seems to be that the agency finally has leaders who want to do the right thing instead of coddling the bureaucracy.
But there's still so much more to be done. It should all be doable on a bipartisan basis. The public wants to treat veterans right, no matter what the outcome of last week's elections or next year's elections. Democrats and Republicans need to come together on this and keep the promises that government made to those who wore the uniform.