The Military

The VA scandal and shame

In my column this week, I blasted President Obama, his White House staff, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Democrats, Republicans, the House and the Senate for a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that should never again occur in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I even blasted myself, taking responsibility for not having a written a column this aggressive and blunt sooner.

{mosads}This is not a moment for the president to send forth his White House staff for yet another fact-finding trip and then announce he will wait for yet another report before proceeding on Wednesday, after his weak performance on vets, with a Super Bowl photo-op event at the White House.

This is not a moment for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), voice cracking and near tears again, to throw stones at others without taking responsibility himself.

How about the Speaker name a truly bipartisan select committee, composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, all of whom have served in the military and know the most about the VA, with a chairmanship equally shared by senior veteran members from both parties, to propose decisive and powerful improvement in veterans’ care? This would be so much better than having sham committees with partisan agendas and public relations spectacles investigate Democrats.

How about the president bring in reinforcements for Shinseki, such as retired Gens. Wesley Clark or Barry McCaffrey from the Army, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni from the Marine Corps, or war heroes and former Sens. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) or Jim Webb. (D-Va.)? Any one of these leaders with vast military experience could look at and help clean up the VA with a six-month mission and no fear of breaking political heads to get the job done.

Get this straight: While things have gotten better in some ways in recent years at the VA, and there are many very good people there, the problems at the VA have been long known by both parties at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. There are not many good guys in either party in high places of official Washington, and anyone who denies this, and defends either the president or Republicans, is a partisan shill of the worst order.

Obama and former President George W. Bush, leaders and members of the Congress, and major media all share blame for the problem and responsibility for the solution. So do I for not speaking out sooner in criticism of my party, which I do here to rectify these wrongs, and if you want to know the truth, if there are Republicans out there who continue the charade of partisan blame without taking responsibility themselves, if they think they are fooling vets and military families and active-duty troops with their partisan blame and excuses, they are dead wrong. They are fooling nobody.

On behalf of those who wear the uniform, or have served the nation in previous conflicts, let’s stop the political crap and solve the problem together, now.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

Tags Anthony Zinni Barry McCaffrey Bob Kerrey Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki Jim Webb Wesley Clark

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