Albany (Georgia) Herald on treatment of veterans:
It is past time that answers are given on how American veterans are being treated at Veterans Affairs medical facilities.
On Thursday, a rare case of bipartisanship was demonstrated on Capitol Hill as both Republicans and Democrats leveled sharp criticism at Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki over delays in health care to U.S. military veterans. While many of the allegations have been heard before Shinseki took the position, he's had more than five years to drill down, find the problems and correct them.
There are strong indications that hasn't been done, with one major veterans' group, the American Legion, calling for his ouster because of it. Shinseki was still at the helm when the week ended, but his undersecretary for health, Dr. Robert Petzel, resigned Friday. That did little to appease critics, who noted that Petzel just moved up his retirement, which was planned for the end of the year.
Of particular concern at Thursday's hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee were accusations that the Phoenix, Arizona, VA office had been cooking the books in regard to how quickly patients were being seen. While records from the office showed that veterans were being seen within 14 days, patients instead have been facing months-long wait times.
Senators were not pleased with Shinseki's wait-and-see approach. Three senior VA officials in Phoenix have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the agency's inspector general. More than one lawmaker was skeptical that an in-house probe would accomplish much of anything, with at least one senator suggesting the FBI should be called in to investigate.
While this shouldn't matter, the level of care our American veterans are getting may finally get addressed because of one thing — the midterm elections this fall. With Republicans and Democrats locking horns over Senate control, political fallout from the mistreatment of men and women who put their lives on the line for our nation is something neither party nor the White House wants to be saddled with.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, said he was outraged about the allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs that contend administrative cost-cutting had led to denials in service to veterans. He said that even in bad economic times, the VA has seen "healthy" funding increases.
If the VA probe shows personnel are "guilty of systemic negligence and oversight malfeasance," he said he expects "strong and swift action to rectify the problem. . (I)mmediate steps must be taken to assure that no veteran is currently being victimized by any such policy of denial of appropriate diagnostic tests nor delays in scheduling of appointments."
That is what it should boil down to, and it should have been the focus long before now.
Our men and women didn't fail us. We cannot continue to fail them.
Savannah (Georgia) Morning News on liberals vs. Obama over judgeship in state:
It's not often when the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in Congress finds itself at war with the liberal chief executive in the White House.
But such is the case with the appointment of a former Democratic lawmaker from south Georgia to a federal judgeship in Atlanta.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, along with a few other liberals in the upper chamber, have said they cannot support President Barack Obama's choice of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs for a seat on the federal bench that serves the northern half of Georgia. But it's not because of anything that Judge Boggs has done on the bench since 2004, serving as a superior or appeals judge. By most accounts, his performance in the judiciary has been exemplary.
Instead, the opposition from Mr. Reid and others stems from votes that the Georgia nominee made more than a decade ago when he was a conservative Democratic lawmaker from Waycross, serving in the state legislature. That includes a vote in 2001 to retain the old Georgia flag, which included the Confederate battle emblem. He also backed measures that would have required parents to accompany a daughter to an abortion clinic if she was younger than 18 and to ban same-sex marriages.
The White House is sticking by its nominee — in part because it made a deal with Georgia's two Republican senators to help get other judicial nominees approved, and in part because it believes the nominee is well-qualified.
"Of all the recent criticisms offered against Michael Boggs, not one is based on his record as a judge for the past 10 years," Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said. "What has distinguished him as a state court judge at the trial level as well as on the court of appeals is that he has taken a keen interest and leading role in criminal justice reform."
Too bad some liberals can't be more open-minded.