Many people get upset when they hear someone say, “Happy Memorial Day.” This is understandable. Memorial Day is a holiday where we sit back and remember the sacrifice over the years in defense of this great nation. It feels wrong to be happy about a holiday that remembers soldiers who gave their lives.
President Trump tweeted today that the United States is the “home of the free, because of the brave.” That is what Memorial Day is all about: remembering those who came before who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that this American experiment with democracy lives on.
These men and women were patriots who fought and laid down their lives to protect our rights and our way of life. They were heroes in every sense of the word.
In many ways, Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices of the past. Yet, Americans are still dying from the physical and mental wounds they received in war. Did you know that this year, the Department of Defense approved 140 new names to be added to the Vietnam War memorial? More and more names are being added to the wall. These include servicemen who were injured in war and died long after the war was over.
Today is a day to recognize the sacrifice of men and women who gave it all for this country. But it is also a reminder that there are still veterans needlessly dying from their wounds.
Last week, Congress unanimously passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, a bill that overhauls the VA and lets veterans appeal when they are refused care. When veterans cannot receive care at the VA, they will be allowed to seek care at private hospitals and clinics. Congress admits that it will take 18 months for the new appeals process to go into effect.
Over that time, veterans will have to brave a VA system full of government employees who don’t care whether they live or die.
Not all VA employees, mind you. There are many people working in the VA who want to help veterans. But there are also employees and bureaucrats who couldn’t care less.
The VA hospital in Phoenix was ground zero for the previous administration’s VA scandal. Hospital employees were given bonuses if their departments operated efficiently. Instead of working harder to make sure vets got the care they needed, employees cooked the books. On paper, they made it look like veterans were being seen by doctors. In reality, vets were dying after waiting months on these “secret wait lists,” without care.
There’s no sugar coating it: veterans died because VA employees wanted to get bonuses.
In 2015, the Obama administration finally fired Phoenix VA administrator Sharon Helman for her role in the scandal. She was also convicted in a criminal court of ethics violations and accepting bribes. While veterans were dying in the VA, she was lining her pockets.
This month, a Federal Appeals Court overturned her firing. Even though she was convicted in a court of law and fired with cause, she is now a VA employee once again.
This is absolutely shameful. But it shows just how broken the VA system is. The criminals are not allowed to be fired. Our veterans are dying because many of the people who are supposed to take care of them are only interested in taking care of themselves. But the law doesn’t allow for the administration to fire them…
That must change and you have to be the one to change it.
Yes, today is about remembering the soldiers of the past who died in service to this country. But it is also a time to remember that warriors are still dying – needlessly – and Congress has yet to fix it.
Throughout history, American heroes answered the call to defend your rights. Now is the time for you to answer the call to defend theirs!
On this Memorial Day, remember the fallen. But also remember that servicemen and women continue to fall, and that many of these tragedies are completely avoidable.