After our nation was attacked on 9/11, tens of thousands of our fellow citizens stepped forward to answer the call of defending and protecting freedom and liberty. These brave men and women served in dangerous combat settings and continue to be let down by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Thanks to the actions of a courageous whistleblower, it appears as though the VA — through either indifference or incompetence — is keeping promised benefits from service members. Tens of thousands of combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are being denied enrollment in VA health care because of a computer glitch VA has known about for seven months and failed to fix.
Compassionate, thoughtful people everywhere should be appalled by this shameful state of affairs, I know I am. How can the VA, an organization filled with honorable veterans, permit this to take place? Seemingly, it all comes down to a systemically degraded culture that has been allowed to fester due to years of failed Executive Branch management from President Obama.
Rather than encouraging a healthy and successful atmosphere across the departments he is supposed to manage, this president has encouraged and allowed a decaying and mediocre malaise to seep in and infest our government. When agencies like the VA, the IRS and the EPA are not acting in the best interests of the very people they are supposed to serve – with almost no accountability for their dysfunction – we all suffer.
Even now, with this issue brought to the forefront, the VA claims that it does not have the authority to enroll backlogged combat veterans into the benefit programs they have earned. Why not? If these brave souls can charge headlong into battles and dangers some of us can only imagine, surely VA management can brave the paperwork required to enroll our veterans!
The lack of transparency and the secrecy from the VA regarding this issue has been extremely frustrating for those of us who serve on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. Although we are pushing the department to address this problem, the VA's intransigence is a major impediment to the oversight responsibilities of our committee.
On three separate occasions, HVAC has demanded that the VA provide details regarding its combat veteran health care backlog and the steps it is taking to eliminate it. Incredibly, the VA has failed to provide the requested information. Unless President Obama heeds the wishes of the American people and cleans up the corruption at the VA, the frustration, mistrust and struggles will continue to mount. Our committee alone is waiting on VA responses to over 150 information requests, with some dating back more than two years. But that is a drop in the bucket compared to the waiting, uncertainty and hardships being endured by our veterans.
In this holiday season, I am grateful for many things. Chief among them are the brave few among us who have stepped forward with a heart to serve and the power to protect us all. The least we can do for our veterans is provide them with the benefits they have earned. I urge the president and the VA to partner with the House Veterans' Affairs Committee in order to take tangible steps toward alleviating and eliminating the bureaucratic suffering being endured by the men and women who have served this great nation.
Doug Lamborn represents Colorado's fifth congressional district. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.