There is a fair amount of outrage after video surfaced of President Obama saluting the Marine guarding Marine One with a coffee cup.
Sadly, I don’t get outraged by his highness’ failure to properly render a salute any longer. I expect nothing more from the Buffoon in Charge than a classless display of disrespect towards the Nation and the people who’ve sworn an oath to defend her. We’ve had 6 years of watching him improperly salute the flag and our troops, 6 years of his administration denigrating the very concept of service, duty and honor. 6 years of him kow-towing to foreign leaders.
But beyond the symbols of respect toward the United States that Obama and his minions routinely trample, there are the actions they’ve undertaken that demonstrate the sneering derision they have for their country. He’s complained on many occasions about being “constrained” by the Constitution. Then there are the three grievous inactions that are indicative of his attitude towards the people who believe in America.
First, there is the Benghazi debacle. Rather than order aid and assistance to a consulate under siege, Obama ordered the exact opposite. And then went off to play cards and take a nap. In the meantime, 4 honorable Americans were beaten, tortured and murdered. The administration’s attitude can neatly be summed up by Hillary’s response before Congress; “What difference does it make?”
Second, there’s the case of Marine Sgt. Tamhooressi, held captive in a Mexican prison since this past spring. Not only has the White House failed to get him released, they haven’t even tried. Apparently, appeasing Mexican pride is preferable to a little arm-twisting.
And finally, we’ve got the mess at the VA. Despite years of promises of finally getting the VA to at least act like they care about America’s veterans, what we got was an administration that willfully turned a blind eye to the abuses. It was only when the politics became unmanageable, when the deaths of thousands of American veterans at the hands of the VA made headlines, that they at least made an appearance of honoring our service. Of course, now that the furor has subsided, the VA has merrily returned to killing veterans.
There are literally dozens of other examples. But you get the point. This guy doesn’t see anything wrong with rendering a Starbucks salute, because he doesn’t respect the men and women who’ve selected honor and duty and personal sacrifice. He doesn’t respect them because he can’t understand why anyone thinks the United States of America is worth making that kind of commitment towards. Asking him to respect something he can’t understand is asking too much.
»Van service scheduled to arrive at 8:40. Van actually arrived at 9:40.
» Report for bloodwork upon arrival. Receptionist cannot find order. Wait ten minutes and walk back up to window. Voila! The order magically appears.
» Two hours between blood and next appointment. Decide to get lunch. Choices include a desiccated salad bar, microwaved cheeseburger (possibly cooked this year), day-old pizza, a steam table full of unidentifiable mush and fresh-made subs. Opt for the sub. Discover the rolls might have been baked at some point since the Civil War. At least the Doritos were fresh.
» With still an hour to kill, I wander into the “Patriot Store,” which is about as well named as the “Patriot Act.” If I wanted to deal with self-absorbed and surly employees, and pay $80 for a $20 sweater, I’d go to Nordstrom. At least the selection would be better.
» Go to check-in for my next appointment. The VA is in the middle of a new efficiency drive, which means things are more mucked up than ever. (When the government says they’ll make things more efficient, you know things are really done for.) Instead of a relatively smooth 5 minute process, it now takes two employees 20 minutes to check me in. Of course, now I’m late for my appointment. As a thank you for my patience, I receive a “buy one, get one” coupon for bottled water… from the Patriot Store. It expires on Monday.
» Only need to wait 25 minutes to see the doctor. During that time, a nurse takes my vitals and asks probing questions. These include “Do you like my engagement ring?” and “Can you breathe?” No, I have gills like a fish. And to be perfectly honest, either her fiancee is cheating on her or honestly thinks Cracker Jack is a jewelry store.
» The meeting with the doctor goes fine. I have to admit, this VA hospital’s partnering with UMDNJ has brought some top-notch docs into the system. But the doc decides it’s time for my biannual colonoscopy – one of the little joys of Crohn’s Disease. So he asks me to wait for his secretary to schedule the procedure and walks me to her office…
» Uh, oh. The secretary is engaged in a VERY IMPORTANT CONVERSATION about her weekend plans. After a few minutes, she notices me standing outside her door and asks me to take a seat across the hall – she’ll get in trouble if somebody notices I’m standing there. I bite my tongue and take the a seat. After a few more minutes of hearing the virtues of one nightclub versus another, I walk into the office and ask, if it’s not too much of a bother, if she would kindly DO HER JOB and schedule my colonoscopy.
» Next stop, pharmacy. For those of you who’ve never been to a VA pharmacy, it’s something like a slow-motion shuttle run. First you check into the pharmacy. You then go to another counter, where a pharmacist reads your prescription off a computer screen back to you. Next, you return to the first counter, where you hand over a hand-written slip from the pharmacist. (Seriously. The pharmacist hand writes the prescription that the doctor submitted by computer. The Soviets couldn’t have come up with anything more ridiculous). You then take a seat and wait a bit for your prescription to be filled. For today, there was a new wrinkle: the check-in person decided there were too many vets in line and cakes everyone at once. Are you familiar with the term “cluster fuck?”
» My prescription needs to be kept refrigerated, but the pharmacy doesn’t have any ice. Perfectly logical, by VA standards. I return to the Patriot Store, but they’ve already closed for the weekend. I try the cafeteria. The doors are bolted – but a soda vending machine stands at the ready. I dutifully insert my dollar. The cost for a can of soda: one dollar. The machine digests my dollar bill, thinks for a moment, then displays “CANNOT MAKE CHANGE” and spits out four quarters. I insert the quarters, get the same message and four quarters. On my third attempt, I actually get a soda – and my four quarters. I leave my Patriot Store coupon as payment.
» It’s now 3:50 and the van is scheduled to pick me up at 4:30. I hang out in the main lobby, shooting the breeze. 4:30 comes, 4:30 goes, no van arrives. I consider heading over to the travel office, but decide against it. After all, it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and the odds of finding anyone there (much less anyone who would do more than say, “Give it a few more minutes”) are somewhere between zero and none. The van finally shows at 5:30.
Long time readers already know I have Crohn’s Disease. I’ve dealt with the condition for almost 22 years, and for large chunks of that time I’ve relied on the Veteran’s Administration Health Care System for medical treatment. As such, I remember the bad ol’ days – when simply signing up for medical care was nearly impossible. The program has made great strides in the past decade and medical care has improved. This isn’t to say the available care is good everywhere; it simply means that fewer VA medical centers seem to have killing veterans as their top priority. I’m also more fortunate than most vets. Because of where I live, I can actually pick and choose from four medical centers. If I lived in Montana, that option wouldn’t exist – I would be stuck with whatever quacks the local VAMC could find to staff the place.
But beyond the quality of medical treatment, there is another problem that, quite frankly, I can’t see any way the VA can correct. The Veteran’s Administration is a government agency – and as such, a ridiculously bureaucratic nightmare to navigate. Just the simple process of checking in for an appointment is a time consuming mess (it means seeing three different clerks, in different offices, before actually getting into the clinic – where you then need to fight with another clerk in order to see a specific doctor).
But there’s another aspect to the bureaucracy that most people (especially those who defend government programs as both necessary and infallible) often forget about: that bureaucracy is staffed by people whose competence is often less important to keeping their position than a host of other factors. A perfect example is what I am now experiencing. Because I’ve been dealing with Crohn’s for so long and every other medication ceased working, I’m now undergoing chemotherapy treatments. It’s a “Hail Mary” attempt at getting this disease under control and it actually seemed to be working.
Enter the VA bureaucracy. As part of the treatment regimen, I stopped the infusion therapy and was supposed to switch over to pills. Great! Fewer trips to the local VAMC, no need to hit up friends for rides, fewer side effects. The pills were supposed to be mailed to me two weeks ago. When they hadn’t arrived by last Wednesday, I spent 45 minutes on the phone to ask where my medication was. Not to worry, I was assured. Because of the holiday weekend, it might take an extra day or two for them to arrive in my mailbox. The weekend came, the weekend went and still no pills. I called back today and after another 38 minutes (most spent on hold), I discovered that somebody, somewhere, placed a “Do Not Mail” flag on my VA pharmacy account. No reason, no rhyme, no excuse – and the faceless person on the other end of the phone assured me they were incapable of releasing the flag.
But wait! It gets even better. A week and a half ago (three days after the pills were supposedly mailed), I spent another hour at the VA pharmacy to get other prescriptions. The clerks (another bureaucratic mess, you need to see four clerks to get a prescription filled – and there isn’t even a paper form, it’s all in the computer) all had access to my account. All of them saw the prescription in question was ordered, one even asked me if I wanted to wait for that one, too. Not one mentioned the “Do Not Mail” flag or offered to remove it.
Is it incompetence? Bureaucratic overlap? A simple failure to communicate? Whatever the cause, the result is the same: another dissatisfied and confused customer. On the surface, an example of how the Veteran’s Administration can screw up a simple task. At a deeper level, it’s a perfect metaphor for why the less government does, the better.
For my friends wondering how I can simultaneously avail myself of a government program and decry government programs, you can find extensive arguments in my archives. But this is an earned benefit, through my prior service to our nation. And for myself and the millions of my fellow veterans, the VAHCS can be done away with by simply issuing us medical insurance that allows us to see private physicians. (Yep, it would cost the government less, too).