Last month the Washington Post’s in depth report revealing appalling conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center outraged the nation. The hospital, run by the Department of Defense, had been known as one of the nation’s premier facilities for treating the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan. Roach-infestation, shoddy outpatient care, and wounded patients forced to care for each other, are just some of the shocking conditions discovered by reporters during their four-month investigation. In the weeks that followed, several high-level Pentagon officials were forced to step down.
As little as two years ago, veterans’ hospitals were heralded for providing the best treatment in the county. They were applauded for reforming their previous reputation as dangerous, dirty, and scandal-ridden. Many suggested that the VA might hold the answer to America’s health-care crisis. What happened? Have the nation’s priorities changed in how we value veterans and the many injured soldiers in need of treatment?
Critics have long alleged that problems of military care extend to the VA’s vast network, which provides supplemental health care and rehabilitation to 5.8 million veterans. As conflicts have continued in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of those in need of both long and short term care have increased but the budget has not. Some argue that this is yet another instance of how the Bush Administration has been hiding the true costs and impact of the war.
Is this just another opportunity for political grandstanding by Democrats and anti-war activists? Is the poor care a reflection of waning supportfor the war in Iraq and the invisibility of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan? Is providing support and care for the troops and veterans a partisan issue?
Why do we provide health care to veterans long after they have left the service? What is the rationale? Is it at all debatable? Where did this idea and practice arise from? What are the basic rights of veterans and what expectations should they have from their country?
Join us this week at Café Society to share your thoughts and experience on this issue.
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.