In the very real scandal engulfing the department of veterans affairs and the White House, the moralizing and scapegoating by the Republican House majority is too much to take. "It is time for our president to come forward and take responsibility for this and do the right thing by these veterans and begin to show that he actually cares about getting it straight," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) yesterday. Yes, President Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki have a lot to answer for since the buck ultimately stops with them. And the president acknowledged his responsibility during his remarks from the press briefing room today. Yet, Cantor's comments are galling when you consider what Congress has and hasn't done for veterans.
If there's been one side pushing for greater resources for the Veterans Administration in the age of austerity these past five years, it hasn't been the Republicans. It was the much-maligned economic stimulus package of 2009 that included $1 billion for the V.A. While the V.A. itself was protected from the budget sequestration that Republican fought to keep in place last year, many other veterans programs -- providing mental health services and housing, among other things -- were hit hard by the sequestration cuts. [...] But there is a whole other level of context to consider here as well. There is a pretty basic reason for backlogs at V.A. facilities and in the disability claims process, the other ongoing V.A. mess. Put simply: when you go to war, you get more wounded veterans, and in a country without a universal health care system, they are all funneled into this one agency with limited capacity. Every one of the Republican leaders quoted above attacking Obama for the V.A. backlogs strongly supported launching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted in nearly 7,000 fatalities and a huge surge in medical needs and disability claims.