31° Good Afternoon
31° Good Afternoon

Editorial: Neglect of veterans must stop

Sidney Lynn, state membership chairman for New York

Sidney Lynn, state membership chairman for New York Veterans of Foreign Wars, speaks during a meeting regarding the Long Island Veterans Initiative at Farmingdale State College Friday, March 7, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

A grateful nation honors its fallen heroes Monday. It's a solemn duty we perform well, and not only with parades and ceremonies on Memorial Day.

Funerals for veterans routinely include uniformed honor guards and flag-draped coffins, the haunting sound of "Taps" and bracing 21-gun salutes. Soldiers precisely fold the American flag and present it to grieving families. It's a powerful show of genuine respect and appreciation.

That sort of pomp is important, and we're good at it. Unfortunately the nation isn't always as good at delivering on its promises to the men and women who fight for the rest of us.

Washington is being roiled right now by allegations that officials at some Veterans Affairs health clinics cooked the books to hide that veterans seeking appointments had to wait much longer than the promised 14 days to see a doctor. If true, that's unconscionable and those involved must be held accountable. But that's just the latest example of how we fail veterans.

Last year's disgrace was a backlog of about 600,000 veterans waiting more than 125 days for a decision on their applications for disability benefits. That backlog has been sliced in half, according to VA officials. It must be eliminated.

Some soldiers who developed psychological problems are still being saddled with less than honorable discharges that leave them ineligible for crucial benefits such as medical care, disability payments and student aid. People who sacrificed their mental health on the battlefield should never be treated so shamefully.

Fortunately, such failures are not the rule. Millions of veterans access the services they need and deserve without drama. But any scandal is one too many.

Memorial Day should remind us we have to do better.