Simply America: If Only They'd Been Puppies

A news item reports: 57,000 Veterans nationwide have been forced to wait 90 days or more for medical appointments at V.A. facilities. About 64,000 more were included on the agency’s electronic waiting list for doctor appointments.

If only these Vets had been puppies, they would have fared better.

I posed a few questions to two different Sheriffs I know. “Suppose you got a call saying a particular kennel allowed a dozen or so puppies to suffer and die? What would you do?”

“Oh, we’d be out there in a few minutes to see about it.”

“So suppose you went out and discovered that yes, puppies had indeed been allowed to suffer in that kennel. Would anyone be arrested?”

One Sheriff put it in plain terms. “You damn right somebody would be arrested. And if we didn’t arrest somebody pretty damn quick the public would have our head.”

Things got a little more complicated when the question was rephrased to deal with people. There are agencies in place to protect people in hospitals, so the answers weren’t quite as clear-cut. The hypothetical situation of people being allowed to suffer in a hospital was thought to be inconceivable. One Sheriff said: “There are too many rules in place to prevent that from happening.”

As a thought-experiment one could substitute any number of terms for puppies. Numerous administrators given performance bonuses while delaying treatment to Lesbians. Schoolteachers die while waiting on care in Emergency Facilities — Emergency Facility Director given Commendation and Bonus. Whistleblower says dozens, hundreds, thousands of Jews, Waitresses, Trombone Players, Bartenders, Kindergarten Students were denied care because of a secret waiting list developed by the Director who just got a bonus.

I posed the same question again to my Sheriff friends, but this time I substituted Nursery School and toddlers instead of a kennel. One of the Sheriffs said, “Well, yeah, we would go out, and if we found evidence you can bet somebody would be arrested. But I tell you what — there would probably be more of a public outcry for arrests in the puppy situation.”

My best friend used to be a man named Harvey. He lied about his age and joined the Navy during the Korean War. He talked about days of wearing an asbestos suit while working on the U.S.S. Tarawa. Like many Navy men, he ended up with lung problems. He’d always call me after an appointment at the V.A in Dublin, Ga. “They’re putting us off, they’re just waiting for us old guys to die. They’re not going to help any of us.”

I would chide him about it. “Aw, come on, Harvey. The V.A. is there to help you guys. You can’t be serious.”

He finally found a Doc at the Augusta V.A. who helped him, but the Doc told him it was too late to do anything substantial. Harvey ended up with a type of leukemia that drained the life out of him, and the Doc attributed it to the asbestos suit. Harvey died back in ’11 at 80 years old. His last few years were very rough.

I’ve thought a lot lately about what Harvey said. I know some men who have had good luck with the V.A. And I am certain most of the men and women serving Vets at the V.A. are good people, good at their job, and do right by the Vets. But we are all now certain that not all the folks who should be doing right by the Vets are doing right.

I have no suggestions about how to solve a problem that should not exist in the first place. But I do wonder when somebody is going to be arrested for mistreating the brave men and women who answer their country’s call. If all else fails, arrest them for Cruelty to Animals — since they apparently think Vets are nothing more than animals who can be ignored. If arresting them for Cruelty isn’t an option, how about Theft by Conversion, since they converted their assumed service to Vets into Bonuses for themselves. If that fails then how about we all find out who they are and shame them in the Public Square? Ask them to stand in church service and shame them out of the community. Run their families out of town and hound them to the ends of the earth — how about that?

The Senate has passed a bill which, among other things, will “make it easier to get rid of” bad employees. We’d like to get a list of these individuals, please, and complete reporting on where they are next employed. We are sure, of course, they won’t be employed at any other Federal Agency. We are even more sure that nothing will happen to them beyond their termination, where they will begin having to dip into the nice, tidy nest egg they built for themselves on the backs of soldiers. They’ll use up their nest egg and at some point will die, where they will have a grand old time around the fire comparing notes with others who harmed innocent people.

We all grew up being taught that if we didn’t oppose something we were taken to be in agreement with it. Our illustrious Senators are probably personally opposed to mistreating Vets, but not quite opposed enough to have the guts required to defend the Vets in the way they deserve. It’s a perennially open question if any of these Servants can actually feel shame. But if any of them can, let them lose a lot of sleep over not being absolutely clear which side they’re on. Maybe they’ll dream about the waiting list they’ll be on outside the Pearly Gates.

One can imagine the new Senate bill will be marked down as a great advancement, everyone will call it good, and a few people will be terminated. Anybody want to take bets on how many people will be arrested?

And puppies all over the country are indeed grateful they don’t have a Senate Committee overseeing their welfare. It’s too bad Vets aren’t as well-loved as puppies.


If you’re really the activist type, here’s the folks to write:

Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Bernie Sanders (I – VT)
Rockefeller IV, John D. (WV)
Murray, Patty (WA)
Brown, Sherrod (OH)
Tester, Jon (MT)
Begich, Mark (AK)
Blumenthal, Richard (CT)
Hirono, Mazie (HI)

Richard Burr (R – NC)
Isakson, Johnny (GA)
Johanns, Mike (NE)
Moran, Jerry (KS)
Boozman, John (AR)
Heller, Dean (NV)

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