Misplaced priorities at the VA

By U.S. Rep.


R-Crystal Falls

If you ran the VA would you spend your time, energy and money on being politically correct or would you invest those resources into caring for our veterans?

Having served for nearly 20 years as a VA doctor caring for veterans, it seems like a fairly easy question for any of us in northern Michigan to answer.

Unfortunately the same thinking doesn’t apply to the bureaucrats in Washington.

The Iron Mountain VA facility has recently become another example of their misplaced priorities. A few months ago, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center finally received a visit from folks at the central office in Washington, only to be reprimanded for not complying with rules that dictate “religious neutrality.” Money was then spent to cover up religious items in the chapel to bring the chapel into compliance. In addition, talk of permanent removal of beautiful stained glass windows, which have been in the chapel for decades, continues.

Talk about misplaced priorities.

Veterans across the country are dying on waiting lists and not receiving the care they need and deserve. Meanwhile, these bureaucrats are spending their time enforcing “religious neutrality” violations in Northern Michigan.

While I was a surgeon in the Iron Mountain VA hospital, I met with many families in the chapel. I never once asked anyone’s religion and I never heard a family member complain about the religious symbols in the chapel. They and I were only concerned about their loved ones.

At a time when the VA is struggling to provide veterans with appointments for basic health care, the last thing the VA should be worried about is covering up Christian symbols in a chapel.

That’s why I’ve urged the VA to give the facility a waiver to this rule. The VA should concentrate on providing the best possible care for veterans in northern Michigan, not enforcing unnecessary “politically correct” regulations from Washington.

I am sick and tired of these bureaucrats and undersecretaries coming before Congress with tired excuses while veterans are dying.

The time for excuses is over; we need action and accountability now.

I’ve introduced the Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act. This bill represents a comprehensive approach to dismantling the culture that allowed up to 40 veterans to perish on a “secret wait list” at the Phoenix VA and countless others around the country to wait several months for basic treatment. We rebuild it with real accountability, from the top down.

I am committed to ensuring that we hold individuals within the VA accountable for failing to solve problems as they come up, and will not stop working until our veterans get the top of the line care we owe them for their service to our nation.

While it is a shame that Congress has to do the work the administration should have begun years ago, I am encouraged that the nation is finally focused on our veterans and this crisis.