Surely everyone has heard one horror story or another about the services rendered inside of Veterans Administration Hospitals. Anyone remembering the scenes from Oliver Stone’s movie “Born on the Fourth of July,” where Tom Cruise’s character, Ron Kovic, lays unattended for hours screaming for help can sympathize with the gentleman I’m about to introduce you to.
Meet Lynn Carter, a US Navy veteran from Fort Smith, Arkansas who has served his nation honorably. He is one of many examples of veterans across this nation who have earned and deserve our utmost respect. It is, after all, the service of Lynn and veterans like him that ensures the freedom and prosperity that America has enjoyed throughout our nation’s history. Yet respect has eluded Mr. Carter and his wife Kathleen for nearly a year now.
In June of 2011 Lynn was visiting a VA eye clinic in Fayetteville, Arkansas when he began to suffer from an intense headache and his blood pressure went sky-high. Having suffered a stroke in May of 2011, the eye doctor at the VA clinic suggested Lynn go immediately to the VA Hospital Emergency Room, also in Fayetteville.
After Lynn arrived at the emergency room, VA medical staff conducted an MRI of his brain and had to send the results to a doctor in Alabama. Apparently there was not enough staff on hand in Fayetteville to evaluate the results. As it turns out, Lynn had suffered another stroke while at the eye clinic. This is only where his horror story of begins.
For nearly five hours Lynn laid waiting on a gurney in the hallway of the VA Hospital. He was accompanied by his wife and numerous other veterans who had suffered various illnesses and injuries warranting an emergency room visit. For five hours Lynn laid there waiting for word on his MRI, blood thinning medication such as he received from his hometown hospital after his previous stroke, or for someone to simply ask if he was doing alright. Lynn describes the scene as a “humiliating disgrace” where veterans were parked “on gurneys in hallways and anywhere else they could stick them.” According to Lynn the VA staff conceded simply “that they were short-staffed and did not have the personnel to take care of everyone in a timely manner.”
Had someone bothered to ask Lynn how he was doing during that five-hour wait he would have surely told them that he had urinated on himself or that he recognized the symptoms of stroke which he had suffered only a month prior. They would have heard from Lynn’s own mouth that he would like to have dry sheets and clothes to wear while he laid waiting on news and/or medication to help ease his suffering. None of that happened however. Instead Lynn’s wife Kathleen eventually demanded that he be released so that she could take Lynn back to Fort Smith to receive the help from their local hospital that he was being denied at the VA. The VA claims Lynn was discharged from the VA Hospital against the medical advice of the doctors working that day, after the Carters demanded to go to their hometown Hospital.
After all of this the Carters did not know who to turn to. They knew they had been done wrong but didn’t know how to remedy the problem so they began to write to various members of congress for assistance and specifically their own US Representative, Steve Womack. After all isn’t the job of our representatives in Washington DC to “represent” our interests as it pertains to US Government?
Recently I posted on www.theprogressivecop.com a page long response from Representative Womack in response to The Progressive Cop contributing writer Innocence Jaded’s request that Womack denounce Rush Limbaugh over the Sandra Fluke comments. In sharp contrast to that response about an issue that affects Womack’s constituents indirectly at best, the Carters received a simple six line response in which Womack politely tells them he can’t do anything for them.
After receiving no help from Congressman Womack, Lynn began trying to call the offices of both Representative Womack and Senator Mark Pryor but was unable to speak with either of them. He eventually wrote a very blunt letter to both of them asking why they refused to answer his phone calls. Lynn had some very simple requests, among them was to know why his complaint was not further investigated.
Lynn goes on in his fiery letter to the Congressmen, to say that his grandson could have gotten better results. Reflecting on the letter to Congressman Womack seeking condemnation of Rush Limbaugh and the prompt and lengthy response we received compared to the response given Lynn’s complaint, I would agree that Mr. Carter’s grandson could have gotten better results from Mr. Womack.
What the Carters want is not monetary compensation but a simple apology and some assurance that efforts will be made to ensure that other veterans won’t be treated the same way in the future. Taking into consideration that Congressman Womack recently voted for the Ryan Budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, it does not appear that fixing the problems over at the Veterans Administration is too high on Womack’s list of things to do. After all, Ryan’s budget proposal fails to mention the word “veteran” even once while somehow cutting an estimated $11 billion in funding for veterans. This means that if Congressmen Ryan and Womack have their way, there will be even less staff on hand to assist veterans like Lynn if there even remains a VA Hospital within a day’s drive of Lynn’s house.
Currently the United States accounts for what is estimated to be between 42 to 46% of global military spending. That is six to seven times higher than the next biggest spender China. Together with our NATO Allies we account for roughly three-quarters of global military spending. Given that fact, it is hard to argue that the West could be seriously threatened by anyone of terrestrial origin.
At a time when both parties acknowledge our national budget is in peril and it is universally recognized that the balance of revenues and spending are out of whack, doesn’t it make sense to cut some of that military spending rather than cutting promises made to those who have risked everything for our freedom? Congressmen such as Ryan and Womack are simply too concerned with keeping the tax rates of the richest one percent and the bottom lines of defense contractors and oil companies healthy at the expense of hardworking Americans and veterans like Lynn Carter. It is high time we let Congressmen like Ryan and Womack know they represent us, the people, and not the almighty dollar.
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