I’m torn on this whole V.A. scandal thing. On one hand, it’s an all-too familiar story about the failure of a large institution to fulfill its promises. Of course V.A. administrators are going to fudge the numbers to keep their money flowing, and of course they’re going to leave people high and dry, since more and more people are in need of services in an era of perpetual international “intervention.”
Over-extension and the inability to pay or care for its soldiers is the hallmark of an empire on the verge of implosion (Rome, anyone?). So from the macro view, this failure is predictable enough to be considered part of doing business: just another write-off for the global corporate elite. More and more of us are being left out in the cold, as there is less pie to go around. Why would poor soldiers be any different?
On the other hand, it could be considered something of an outrage that politicians who claim to love the troops (or, politicians, full stop) drone on and on, no pun intended, about freedom and liberty and American exceptionalism, and yet they enjoy socialized health care while the people who do the dirty work die while waiting in line. But again, back to my first point: knowing what we know about oligarchy and global resource extraction, why should this be surprising to anyone? Politicians and their corporate masters don’t give a shit about you! The sooner you realize that the better.
On still another hand, if you’ll grant me an extra one, what have these soldiers done for their country? Yes, they’ve sacrificed, and sure, they’ve suffered, and they’ve fought the occasional religious zealot bent on harming others (unlike political charlatans, I don’t profess to care more about American life than about any other). But they’ve also done horrible things, not only to already marginalized groups but to those in their own ranks. There might be more racism and sexism within the US Army than within any other terrorist organization. While it’s obvious why soldiers returning home would be strung out (and why the suicide rate among returning vets continues to climb), what about the people they maimed—or the whole towns they scorched?
The best response, given the many facets to this problem, would be not to glorify the troops or to question why an over-inflated bureaucracy is acting like, well, an over-inflated bureaucracy (and isn’t the definition of a bureaucracy really a system to deflect accountability?), but rather to ask what this story is really intended to achieve—or, rather, who it’s intended to help.
One of the main unstated assumptions that this whole episode perpetuates is the idea that one must do something—and something drastic, like go to a foreign country and attempt to kill strangers—in order to earn medicine. Who do you think that kind of idea serves?
Another unstated assumption this fallout has reinforced is the notion that health care is expensive and complicated and scarce: that there’s just not enough of this commodity called “health care” for everybody—even our mythologized veterans. Gosh, I guess I should be happy—nay, proud—to wait in line for my next medical procedure, which will put me under crushing debt indefinitely, if even people who agree to go shoot people in distant lands, showing their ultimate loyalty to the upper caste, are waiting in line for theirs.
And I guess we should use the term “medicine” loosely, since apparently the V.A. wasn’t so much treating post traumatic stress as drugging it, turning depression and anxiety into full-scale addiction. So marijuana is the impetus for filling the for-profit prison system, but a federal health care administration dolls out opioids. (“Opium is the opiate of the masses,” as my favorite political philosophy professor loved to say.)
Which part is the scandal?