Veterans concerns cause for action
Rep. Sean Duffy
Last Friday, I brought together representatives from veterans’ organizations around the 7th District to discuss their experiences with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The group of about 20 veterans, including former state senator and veteran Dave Zien, shared their frustrations with the VA system, bravely offered candid testimonials and engaged in a thoughtful and ultimately productive discussion about opportunities for reforming the process and cleaning up the agency.
Reforming the VA system has been a priority of mine long before the scandal in Phoenix, Ariz., was plastered all over the newspapers, but hearing the firsthand accounts from veterans in our own backyard reignited my outrage with the entire agency. One veteran, after hearing about the emotional and harrowing experience of a fellow veteran in attendance who is battling cancer, commented the VA treats veterans like second- or third-class citizens. That is absolutely unacceptable. Our veterans should be using their energy to fight cancer, not the VA.
As difficult as it may be to listen to these experiences, sharing them is key to getting the Obama Administration to tune in to the issue and to get something done. It is because of the brave men and women who have chosen to speak out that the spotlight is squarely on the president and the people he has appointed to run this agency. They do not like it when the heat is on them, but if we want results, we need to keep it on them, and turn it up.
While the Obama Administration has thus far demonstrated an unwillingness to move swiftly on VA reforms, for our part, the U.S. House of Representatives is moving quickly to right this wrong. Just this week, the House passed, and I was proud to support, a VA reform bill that would allow veterans to seek care from a private doctor if they cannot get an appointment within the department’s wait time goals. Also, as a result of Friday’s conversation, I plan to spearhead an inquiry into the treatment of Wisconsin veterans. Additionally, I will utilize my position in Congress to look into legislative opportunities to streamline and simplify the VA’s records process.
Last week’s meeting was a follow-up from a delegation-wide meeting that I hosted in April with representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the backlog and recording issues within the agency, an issue that was brought to my attention by constituents.
The steps I am taking and supporting on your behalf are a direct result of the experiences you have shared with me, and the conversations we have had on this issue. Please continue to call my office, email me or even flag me down when you see me around the district, and let me know how we are doing. Our veterans and their families honorably served this great nation; we owe them a higher standard of service and gratitude in return.
Rep Sean Duffy, R-Weston, represents the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin. Duffy gathered representatives of veterans’ organizations from throughout the district for a meeting in Wausau.