The shameful condition of U.S. medical facilities for treating wounded veterans was highlighted this week in what will surely be Pulitzer Prize winning stories for the Washington Post. It symbolizes a culture of betrayal on the part of official Washington that has rightly seen Americans everywhere register their indignation.
But the outrage goes beyond the squalor in certain buildings or even the red tape and run around facing returning military personnel. It is that this was allowed to happen for years without anything being done. During this time, veterans and their families were writing to their members of Congress and senators pleading for action. Yet with all their staff, these political representatives of the people apparently couldn’t be bothered to pull together the same story that virtually fell into the laps of Post reporters Anne Hull and Dana Priest. There was no investigative reporting here. The deploring situation was out in the open for anyone to see.
It is bad enough for the military chain of command to have permitted this situation. But one likes to think that at least elected officials –and there are enough of them in Washington– are there to serve as a check on executive power especially when it drops the ball. America’s federal lawmakers are busy folks. But they have no higher duty than to ensure that the best treatment and care is provided to those who are sent off into battle and return the worse for it. What happened to the staffs of the armed services committees of Congress or to the committees that oversee veterans affairs? Much is made on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue about the need to support the troops. But no senator or congressman —Democratic or Republican— it seems cared enough to respond affirmatively to the hundreds of letters they received or to walk over to Building 18 of the Walter Reed medical campus to see what the reporters saw. They, like the officials in charge, let the troops down.
This would be a disgrace anytime. During a time of war, it is an intolerable outrage.