It is tragic that just days before a holiday that salutes and remembers those who have given their lives for the United States in warfare, a scandal is engulfing the system designed to help the survivors of those conflicts.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs faces charges that not only did veterans face unconscionable waits for medical care, but that there was a cover-up of the inefficiencies in the system.
What started as the result of two whistleblowing doctors at the Phoenix VA hospital has now spread to over 30 facilities. Retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, is facing calls for his resignation.
One of the two doctors told the Arizona Republic that not only was data about patient waiting times for appointments falsified, but that some vets had died while waiting (Source: USA Today).
Once the investigation of the allegations is finished, anyone found to have falsified the data should face criminal charges.
The VA needs to be modernized and its medical facilities need to be adequately staffed. If that means higher compensation to attract doctors and nurses, that is the least we can do for our veterans.
Failing that, or until that is achieved, the government should adopt Sen. John McCain's proposal to pay for veterans to see private doctors.
As our troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA medical system is going to be even more stressed than it is today. Congress and the administration need to get together and design a 21st-century VA that can provide care for the men and women who risked everything for their country.
We promised that to our troops when they enlisted. We need to keep that promise.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.