Ignoring the Troops

You may recall the scandal that erupted last spring when news emerged that wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were living in neglected squalor. A media furor ensued, generals were relieved, the Secretary of the Army resigned, and officials from the president on down promised the situation would be quickly resolved.

Guess what: six months later, it seems very little has been done.

A government report being released today concludes that wounded warriors are still getting the runaround from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs despite big promises of change after last February’s revelations about scandalous conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says delays for disability payments still average 177 days — nearly six months — with no indication that dramatic improvement is in the offing. The GAO also found continuing frustrations and shortfalls in care for the increasing number of military returnees from Iraq.

“Delayed decisions, confusing policies, and the perception that DOD and VA disability ratings result in inequitable outcomes have eroded the credibility of the system,” the GAO says in testimony to be released on Capitol Hill today. “Thus, it is imperative that DOD and VA take prompt steps to address fundamental system weaknesses.” MORE

Six months, on an issue that allegedly has the highest priority and promises directly from the president, and nothing happens. This is beyond incompetence. It is evil. When the news came out, the Bush Administration could plausibly claim it didn't know how bad things were for disabled veterans. I was not so sure, but gave them the benefit of the doubt. They no longer deserve that benefit.

Here's the truth: when Bush Administration officials, including Bush himself, say they care about the troops, they are lying. They do not care. If they did, disabled soldiers would not be waiting 177 days to get paid. The president can fix this overnight if he wishes. He obviously has other priorities.

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