Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 1, 2016

Private sector might hold key for veterans’ care

By The Telegraph Herald (Dubuque), June 9

The recent resignation of Eric Shinseki as head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will satisfy those who are looking for a scapegoat amid revelations that multiple VA health care facilities cooked the books regarding the length of time veterans were waiting to receive services.

If it were only that simple.

Certainly, Shinseki was not personally doctoring the documents showing how long vets could see a doctor. And, how much the former U.S. Army chief of staff might have discovered about the problem in his 5 1/2 years on the job is a matter of debate. Considering the systemic efforts to defraud everyone -- superiors, veterans, Congress and the public --there is a chance Shinseki would have been in the dark 50 1/2 years later.

Shinseki’s departure was the easy part. The hard part is straightening out the VA, which lacks the staff and facilities to meet the needs of veterans. (If the VA didn’t have those shortcomings, there would not have been a “need” to falsify records concerning wait time.) Veterans’ numbers have surged after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our Vietnam veterans are getting up in years, when the need for health care naturally increases.

The VA won’t be able to build medical facilities and hire doctors and nurses rapidly enough to meet the demand. Some vets couldn’t wait that long. And that is not an answer -- or the only answer. Instead, the federal government should make it easier for veterans to receive care from the private sector, with medical professionals in or near their own communities.

Legislation to that effect is surfacing in Congress, and one of its proponents is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the former Vietnam-era prisoner of war and 2008 GOP presidential nominee. Part of that equation is to make it easier for medical facilities and professionals -- through fair remuneration and a minimum of red tape -- to add veterans to their patient rolls.

This might create a case of going from the proverbial frying fan into the fire. Many clinics and hospitals have waiting lists of their own. But there are a great many more private health facilities scattered across the country than there are VA facilities.

The federal government, starting with the VA, needs to figure out how to make this happen for veterans. They have waited long enough.

Election Day 2014 is 148 days away -- actually, sooner than that, if you consider early voting -- which leaves ample time for candidates to make their cases with tri-state voters and for voters to make up their minds.

A couple of races should be of particular interest to Dubuque County voters: County supervisor and the contest between two Dubuquers for congressman from Iowa District 1.

Democrat Donna Smith, who in 2010 was voted out after 32 years as county supervisor, Tuesday received the chance to win back her old job. The election for two seats on the three-member board creates a rematch with newcomer Daryl Klein, who in 2010 became the first Republican elected to county office in 58 years. (Tom Hancock, a former state senator, is the other Democratic nominee. Eric Manternach did not seek re-election.)

There is another veteran-vs.-newcomer involving two Dubuquers to decide who will be Northeast Iowa’s next congressman. Longtime Democratic legislator and former Iowa House speaker Pat Murphy faces Republican businessman Rod Blum, who won the primary election in his second try for his party’s nomination. This is the first time two Dubuquers have squared off in the general election for Congress in 36 years -- and only the second time since at least the 19th century. Blum’s name and views should be familiar to TH readers, as he carried the conservative viewpoint in the TH’s monthly “Double Take” feature for more than decade.

These candidates, and dozens of others around the tri-state area -- including nominees yet to be decided in Wisconsin -- will be working hard the next five months to win your votes. You owe it to yourself, your community, your state and your country to commit to spending some time actually learning the facts about them. Don’t rely on who has the most yard signs or the toughest TV commercials. This is too important for that.

Dubuque has many things to be proud of, and one is Kenneth M. Quinn.

Gov. Terry Branstad on May 30 presented the Dubuque native the Iowa Award, the state’s highest citizen honor.

Now the president of the World Food Prize Foundation, Quinn is a 32-year veteran of the U.S. State Department. He was our ambassador to Cambodia and served for six years in Vietnam during the war. Fluent in Vietnamese, Quinn acted as interpreter for then-President Gerald Ford and personally negotiated Americans’ entry into a Vietnamese prison to search for our prisoners of war.

With this honor, Quinn, a graduate of Wahlert Catholic High School and Loras College, joins some elite company. Previous winners of the Iowa Award include Norman Borlaug, George Gallup, Meredith Willson, Robert Ray and Grant Wood.

We congratulate Ambassador Quinn for this tremendous honor.

 

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.