Veterans deserve more than lip service

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Memorial Day is Monday.

At many senior living communities, ceremonies will be held to honor military members who are residents or who have died. At baseball games and other public gatherings, veterans will be publicly thanked for their service. It's all well and good. But is it enough?

We seem to have a complicated relationship with the men and women we all too often put in harm's way. On the one hand, we're genuinely thankful for the sacrifices they make. And we feel proud to be in their presence.

Yet in other ways, the way we treat those who serve borders on the shameful. Most enlisted men and women earn ridiculously paltry wages. The housing stock they and their families live in is often substandard. In many ways, we seem to be doing a much better job of taking care of the people who supply weapons than those who use them.

Then there's Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald. Earlier this week, he compared the times veterans spend waiting for care to the time Disneyland visitors wait for a ride. This marvelous insight came when a reporter asked him why the VA doesn't report the date when veterans first seek an appointment.

When it comes to apt analogies, I'm not convinced that comparing the time a sick vet waits for care to the boarding time for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride fits the bill. Especially coming from the guy who was hired to help the VA provide care in a more timely manner..

But in addition to being tone deaf, McDonald appears to be off to a slow start. A Government Accountability Office report released in April indicated that about half the veterans seeking medical care are still waiting at least 30 days before being treated. Yes, 30 days. There's no question we rush them into harm's way a lot quicker than that.

Then again, maybe that should not be so surprising. When it comes to veterans, we as a nation are quick to say how grateful we are. But when you are also being told to wait a month or more for basic medical care, such compliments can sound a lot like hollow praise.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.

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