It’s easy to appear a patriot, according to a World War II-era song – “When Johnny Comes Marching Home, hurrah! hurrah!”
Alvin C. York Veteran's Administration
It’s awesome when flags and cheers waffle in the air as soldiers deploy to war zones and arrive back at Tennessee National Guard bases at Smyrna Airport and Murfreesboro.
It’s inspiring when political leaders wax “patriotism” in speeches to the masses when sending soldiers to war, but thoroughly revolting when the same politicians appear neutered when it’s time to make the nation’s Veterans Administration toe-the-mark in providing effective and humane health care for aging and ailing veterans, and their families.
It’s equally frustrating when the public stands silent in not making politicians and VA medical officials do their sworn jobs.
In today’s social media explosion-era, it’s increasingly easy to contact political leaders and government workers, either by twittering, e-mails, plus old-timey telephones, fax machines and hand-penned letters.
The York VA’s phone number is 867-6000. You’ll get a recording, but then punch “O” for “operator” to get a human.
York VA Medical Center management’s recent suspension of housing for veterans seeking drug abuse treatment has been confirmed publicly by a VA spokesman, despite the agency receiving record funding in the current fiscal year budget.
Regional VA spokesman Chris Alexander confirmed Tuesday the hospital's substance-abuse program housing remains “suspended.”
However, “no date” was offered by Alexander when ailing veterans with drug problems can expect the facility to be re-opened.
“I assure you, housing is just suspended…we’re working toward reopening the facility,” Alexander added. “But, we have no firm date to bring the housing back on line. We’re also working with impacted veterans to find community resources.”
However, Room In The Inn Director Christine Huddleston, who has more than 50 years in ministry lodging in Murfreesboro for the homeless, including veterans, calls the closure “catastrophic,” and “will cost lives” in times of recent wintry sub-freezing temperatures.
“No one from the VA has contacted me,” she offered.
“I don’t see why the large VA health care facility doesn’t have permanent housing for veterans with substance abuse issues, which is especially triggered by wartime military service,” Huddleston noted. “We currently have two veterans with drug issues housed here at the Room, but we’re maxed out to capacity (30 homeless at any given time).
“As we speak, we’d have to turn away homeless veterans, and it breaks my heart when we have to turn the poor sick veterans away in the cold of the night,” Huddleston added.
This is not the first time the VA has closed its services to deserving veterans who put their lives on the line for the nation.
A Woodbury doctor, back in the early 1990s, waged a heroic “one-man” war to force York VA officials “treat” an obviously sick military veteran.
I was more than motivated when the Dr. Leon Reuhland called me to accompany him to York, as he inquired why the seriously-suffering veteran had been turned away from health care at York VA during a dangerously-cold winter’s night.
“It wasn’t the first time an ailing veteran patient of mine, from our practice at Woodbury, had been turned away by the VA,” the physician prescribed.
Shamefully, it was only after York VA officials learned that a reporter as well as a representative from former U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon’s office were present at Reuhland’s meeting, did they treat the ailing veteran.
If there was one thing “positive” from that memorable meeting called by Reuhland, it alerted the representative and his staff, as well as news media to be more vigilant in observing whether the VA hospitals in Nashville and Murfreesboro were doing their jobs.
Later last decade, regional directors of the Tennessee Valley VA health care System headquartered in Nashville, which includes the highly used York VA facility that has served veterans through WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and now the maimed and ailing veterans in wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, started a bureaucratic attempt to close all of York’s doors to veterans and families.
That’s when Nashville Rep. Jim Cooper and Gordon, both Democrats, mounted political efforts to head off “closing” the facility, that not only serves Middle Tennessee veterans, but thousands from throughout East Tennessee as well as southern Kentucky, northern Alabama and other surrounding states.
We hope current U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, will awaken to see the need to encourage York officials to have the compassionate wisdom to reopen “suspended housing” for vets enrolled in the agency’s drug rehabilitation program.
However, she was unavailable for comment in Washington Tuesday.