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Brock: Veterans deserve more

On Friday, Eric Shinseki resigned as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department after meeting face-to-face with President Barack Obama about mounting evidence of widespread misconduct and mismanagement at the agency’s vast network of medical facilities.

His resignation came after saying for weeks that he wanted to stay in his job to confront accusations that officials at the department’s hospitals had manipulated waiting lists to cover up long delays in scheduling appointments for thousands of veterans and to fix the problems.

My dad served 24 years in the Army and Air Force. He left the fields of rural Oklahoma and was part of the second invasion of Normandy, and served two tours in Vietnam before he retired. The recent corruption in the Veteran’s Administration hospitals is nothing new based on my experience. Years ago, prior to his passing, my dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, so my family sought temporary hospitalization for him from the VA in Tucson, Ariz., while we found a permanent residence.

Without going into details, the VA was anything but helpful. Though not easy, we were fortunate enough to have enough resources to do find him a permanent place, though I remember thinking at the time about what happens to former soldiers who don’t have money. It’s hard to imagine, but the reality is too many of our nation’s heroes then and now end up homeless or die prematurely due to lack of health care.

Eric Shinseki is a veteran of the Vietnam war who stepped on a mine and lost part of a leg while serving there, He deserves the gratitude of our country. I don’t doubt that he cares about veterans, because he served and commanded so many in his 40-year military career.

The problems with the VA hospitals began long before his watch, and he is not solely to blame. The current and previous VA administrations, presidents and Congresses deserve their share of the blame.

Dad gave me three pieces of advice from the military that served him well during his time in the service and have been a huge benefit in my life.

No. 1, never volunteer. No. 2, never make excuses. And finally, always accept responsibility for your actions. Secretary Shinseki’s resignation maybe could have come a little sooner, but to me he showed that like advice my father gave me, he accepted the responsibility for the mistakes made at the VA.

I only hope that the rest of those to blame will be as honorable, and that everyone charged with providing help for our veterans takes this opportunity to fix the system. All of our veterans earned the health care they were guaranteed when they signed up to serve, and hopefully someday our nation will finally deliver on that promise.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at hbrock@thedickinsonpress.com.

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