By Erin Drushel

The recent revelations at an Arizona Veterans Administration (VA) hospital serve to highlight an underlying problem in North America.  It was uncovered that a number of veterans were placed on a secret waiting list in what appears to be an attempt to improve the public waiting list backlog numbers, potentially contributing to the deaths of about forty veterans.

It is truly unfathomable that – in the country that brought you the very definition of patriotism – the most patriotic citizens are being swept into quiet little corners because the numbers of those who are waiting for care might look bad. It not only looks bad, but it’s utterly appalling. And, apart from John McCain, where is the GOP?

This is one of those issues I want to see them stand up for. In my mind – apart from being the right thing to do – tackling this issue is also easy pay dirt for Republicans.  Not that anyone should be playing politics with people’s lives, but what better way to connect with all Americans than to stand up for the forgotten heroes.  And I don’t mean simply calling for the resignation from the top guy, but offering up real solutions. This is an opportunity for any party to do something meaningful if only they’re willing to take up the challenge. So why hasn’t the GOP jumped on this issue with the same vigour as the conspiracy theory ridden Benghazi story?  The inconvenient truth is, this has been a silent and ongoing problem no matter which party was in office.  On this issue, both parties lose, but no one will lose more than the veterans themselves.

As shameful as the situation seems to be in the U.S., let’s not forget that the poor treatment of veterans is not exclusive to America… As much as Canadians want to look down upon our U.S. neighbours and shake our heads with shame, we have no high horse on which to sit.  In Canada, we also have veterans who need help now.  So what does the current government do – it fights with them and insults them, of course! At least we don’t have (as far as we know) secret lists of soldiers waiting to be recognized – or die – whichever happens first.  But we do have lists of those struggling to get treatment for PTSD, waiting for a chance to re-enter society as productive members.  Soldiers who just want to feel like normal people again.

Parades and ceremonies are undoubtedly a nice way to show we care – the National Day of Honour just passed in Canada, while in the U.S., Memorial Day weekend is quickly approaching – but frankly, there needs to be less flag-waving and more action in both the United States and Canada.  There have been too many ‘moments of silence’ where instead there should be a calling out of the injustices toward those who fought for us. Veterans fought for our freedom overseas.  The least we can do is fight for them at home.

– Erin Drushel