We have to do better in treating our veterans

This file photo shows dogtags and an American This file photo shows dogtags and an American flag. Photo Credit: iStock

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Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a political analyst at the Fox News Channel and ...

It's a solemn commitment: When we send our men and women into battle, we treat the wounded and sick when they return. Who can object to that? And here's something else that's indisputable: We've fallen down on the job.

Deadly appointment backlogs, unmet promises to improve, cooked record books: No wonder Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health at Veterans Affairs, resigned on Friday, a day after being slapped around on Capitol Hill.

See ya, Doc!

But what will improve the situation? Another sacrificial lamb? The VA doesn't lack heart or talent. At its core, the problem here is resources even more than management.

The veteran population is getting older. The numbers are hugely bloated by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The VA is asked to treat many ailments that were never treated before, PTSD among them -- and properly so. Medical miracles on the battlefields keep many more soldiers alive. With 85 million VA appointments a year and too few doctors to see them, the squeeze is predictably tragic.

It was ironic hearing those Republican congressmen wailing for expanded government health care. After all their anti-Medicare and anti-Obamacare votes, weren't they supposed to hate that?

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This won't be cheap. It never is. But hire the doctors. Fill the beds. Get the vets the care they deserve.

VA HEROES

1. The doctors

@Newsday

2. The nurses

3. The aides

4. The families

5. The vets

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: A two-hour tethering limit for Suffolk County canines? What doggy regs will Huntington Legis. Lou D'Amaro propose next? County-approved pooch names? . . . Is Ellen Birnbaum the Donald Sterling of the Nassau Legislature -- or just deeply misunderstood? . . . The weeklong traffic study on St. James' Montclair Avenue? That's a real traffic study and not the Chris Christie kind, right? . . . Could the Hempstead school board do a worse job? Well, the graduation rate could go below 38 percent . . . Who hired the goats to munch weeds at Vineyard Field? Should the East End human landscapers glance nervously over their shoulders? . . . Five million dollars for infrared truck-height detectors on the Northern State? Wouldn't a bamboo pole work just as well and be a whole lot cheaper? . . . Illegal or just undocumented? Now that Brookhaven Wildlife's Animal Amnesty Day snagged an albino diamondback rattlesnake and two marmoset monkeys, what other exotic creatures are still on the lam on LI's North Shore? . . . After winning Smithtown's approval to build a high-rise cooling tower and chop down thousands of trees, now Forest Labs is dumping its expanded headquarters at 500 Commack Rd.? Can you blame the neighbors for wondering: Is that the thanks we get? Will the pharma giant return the tax breaks?

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THE NEWS IN SONG: We're still fighting: Josh Groban's "War at Home,"

tinyurl.com/homefight.

LONG ISLANDER OF THE WEEK

DAVID CINCOTTA

We never know what heroes live inside us. David Cincotta didn't. Forty-three years old, struggling with diabetic neuropathy, he was waiting at the Lukoil station at Bay Shore and Commack roads. A white car stopped. A woman got out. Then the car drifted backward with three young children inside. One kid had thrown the gear into reverse. The mother gave chase, but she was knocked to the ground. A surveillance camera picked up the rest: Cincotta forget he couldn't run, forgot he could barely walk. He dashed after the rapidly moving vehicle. He opened the door and leaped inside. Just before the kids hit open traffic, he slammed the gear into park. "I trip a lot just walking," he said later. "My friends who saw the video were like, 'I never seen you run like that.' Me, neither." Run, David, run! Whether you thought you could or not!

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Follow on Twitter @henican

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