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Veterans deserve the best, they should get it

President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs has a LOT of work to do to restore trust in the agency — and to do right by the men and women it serves.

President Donald Trump has referred to the federal bureaucracy as “the swamp.” The VA may well qualify as the poster child for that. For decades, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, promises have been made that the VA would be cleaned up. It never seems to happen.

Let us be clear: Overwhelmingly, the men and women who work at the VA do their very best to serve veterans of military service. Many veterans who have received treatment at VA hospitals are lavish in their praise of the facilities’ employees.

Management is another story. Gigantic cost overruns for VA construction projects and the “wait-list” scandal of a few years ago are examples of failures.

Shoddy, sometimes dangerous care of veterans can be a concern. In February, a former nursing assistant at the VA hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, will be sentenced for her homicidal spree there. Somehow, over a period of months in 2017-18, Reta Mays got away with murdering at least eight veterans by injecting them with insulin they didn’t need. VA officials have yet to release a satisfactory explanation for how that happened.

Then, just weeks ago, the current VA secretary, Robert Wilkie, came under fire from several veterans’ organizations. Wilkie is accused of attempting to discredit a female veteran who filed a sexual harassment claim, rather than properly investigate the accusations.

Denis McDonough, Biden’s nominee, is not a veteran himself. He says he understands the challenges that might present in building confidence, but that he is committed to “fight like hell for our veterans,” and remove impediments to true service for them such as “mismanagement, staff shortfalls, leadership gaps and IT systems failures.”

Good. Now, let us hope he is true to his word. Those who were willing to give their lives for the rest of us deserve the best treatment this nation has to offer. It is time they received it.

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