NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 1, 2014

Editorial: A look at what others are saying

The following are excerpts of editorials from other newspapers across New England:

The House of Representatives voted twice recently to do more to care for America’s veterans. On June 10, lawmakers approved a measure, 421-0, to speed treatment to veterans on waiting lists by allowing them to see doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system.

An hour later, the House voted the same bill again because five members, including the Republican chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, missed the first tally.

No one in Congress wanted to be a no-show on veterans care, now that the scale of the problem in the VA system is known — including long delays in providing access to specialists and primary-care physicians.

But Congress let this problem happen by being far more ready to go to war than to care for the people who wage it. It is great — if unusual — to see agreement in Congress about a problem that needs fixing. Such is the power of the flag in home-front politics. Many of these same lawmakers couldn’t be bothered to bolster the VA system despite clear evidence that its services would be overwhelmed by returning veterans. And now, some of them want to send troops back into Iraq with nothing to be gained — and so much lost.

For a long time, the instinct within the VA system has been to hide the fact that, in many cases, it makes veterans wait a long time to get medical attention. An internal audit released recently pinpointed problems. They include convoluted scheduling procedures that VA clerks didn’t understand and a growing demand for care that swamped the system and left it unable to meet its goal of seeing new patients within 14 days. On top of that, the audit, based on over 3,770 interviews, found that 13 percent of those scheduling medical appointments had been told by supervisors to fudge the dates requested by veterans.

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