It really is a system worth saving

If it seems we have been here before, we have. Compassionate, timely care for veterans has been a challenge for our government since the Revolutionary War. The most important development in this journey came immediately after The American Legion was founded in 1919. Adequate care for veterans who returned home changed by war was then, and remains today, the essential purpose of our organization.

After World War I, the mix of federal bureaus and agencies assigned to serve veterans was at best dysfunctional. At worst, it was corrupt. One early director of the Veterans Bureau, an ineffective predecessor to the Veterans Administration, was sent to prison after using government funds to stockpile and resell hospital supplies, including 100 years’ worth of floor wax, on the black market. Mentally ill veterans were warehoused in jails, asylums and abandoned hotels, their conditions undiagnosed let alone treated. Disabled, blinded, poisoned and diseased veterans became the burdens of their families, not of our nation.

The American Legion spent a decade fighting to repair the problem, making and winning the case for just one federal authority to deliver care and earned benefits to veterans and their families. It was both a moral imperative and an expression of gratitude on behalf of a nation that should never take freedom for granted. VA would be that authority.

Since 1930, VA has withstood numerous shifts in health-care delivery, patient demand, politics, technology, budgets and organizational overhauls, including its rise to Cabinet status in 1989. As the leading voice of veterans who use VA services, the Legion has been in the thick of every battle, from soaring demand after World War II to the embarrassing need to improve quality, cleanliness and efficiency in the 1990s.

Over the past decade, VA has evolved to become, as author Phillip Longman wrote in his 2007 book comparing it against all other sectors, “the best care anywhere.” The caregivers, The American Legion and, yes, even our government can be proud that the VA system outperforms all others in patient satisfaction and quality.

When I called for the resignations of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and his two top undersecretaries in May, I did not call for the resignation of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Timely access to VA’s high-quality care has been an unsolved problem for too long. When whistle-blowers revealed secret lists and intentional lies – and that executives received bonuses based on falsified appointment records while veterans were dying in line – it was not time for more study. It was time for change. That’s happening now because The American Legion believes VA is a system worth saving.

Amid all this has emerged a familiar outcry to collapse the system, give veterans vouchers and let them go to any facility that will take them. Such an argument suggests that veterans do not deserve the specialized, quality care VA provides. Moreover, it suggests a willingness to surrender rather than solve a problem. Thankfully,
those of us who served in uniform, often against deadly odds, do not give up so easily.


  1. I think the VA Heath Care System needs to be dismantled. Let's give Veterans vouchers or insurance similar to Medicare so they can get treatment in the private sector. The current system has no incentive for taking care of the patient The incentives are for quotas and meeting arbitrary statistical measures. The VA is bloated and inefficient. It has over five times the employees as the Social Security Administration, and serves about one-third of the clientele. Obviously, there is a lot of dead wood in the agency. The VA needs a top to bottom overhaul, and I think the American Legion should lead the way.

  2. If the VA health care system is worth saving, then where would we start? Most of the structure would need to be torn down and then rebuilt with professional, skilled, experienced and caring health care workers being the rule instead of the exception. Frankly I fear trying to get care at my VAMC. It makes me sick to think about all the veterans in need of care who are not receiving it.

  3. A system Worth Saving??? Clearly you do not use the VA medical system most of us are forced to use. If you think this third world quality health care is worth saving I have to wonder about my membership in the AL. My local VAMC put up a new sign...World Class Health Care. What a joke. It was money wasted, feel good for the staff. It should read VA health Care Second to the 3rd world. My Local VMAC has many openings for Drs but the Doctors I know on the outside want nothing to do with the VA. They do not want VA poor performance reputation applied to them. My wife has ChampVA. Better health coverage than I have. Give us ChampVA or Federal Blue Cross Blue Shield. Any heath care where the VA motto Deny, Deny, until they die is not in use daily !!!!!!!!!!!!.

  4. I feel your pain George. I had recently been kicked to the curb by American Legion Rep for the 2nd time in 4 months. I got an email from a person who apparently works out of DC. This lady has stepped all over herself trying to explain whats going on, telling me her assistant will call me.....blah blah blah. I thought the VA waiting list was bad. Hell, you voice concerns for help with American Legion who are my sworn POA's . The send you an email stating. "I feel your emails are becoming hostile and I can no longer assist you" I emailed back. "Hostile? NO, Concerned? Yes. I about peed my pants laughing at that email" However that also elevated my PTSD levels and my heart went into AFIB that night causing me to go to the E.R. Outside the VA of course. I'm going to send Commander Dellinger another Letter. I hope he gets this one "AGAIN". My emails were never threatening. I have Pete Hegseth of Concerned Veterans For America looking into this as well. They want me to do an interview with CNN for 5 min. Then another segment for 20 min. I have, now over 38 phone conversations, including American Legions actions and their Hostilities towards me. Not them. If they try to discredit me, then I'll just keep hitting the replay button. I'm Not Giving Up. WE DESERVE BETTER

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