The country doesn’t expect much out of its First Ladies, but when they use their high profile as a position to speak out politically, we have the right to ask whether their efforts amount to anything. In the case of Michelle Obama’s fitness initiatives, early reports show them to be anything but effective. And when it comes to her promise to crush veteran homelessness, it appears her words were as empty as the nation’s school-lunch trays.
In June, Michelle Obama insisted that the existence of homeless veterans was “a stain on our nation’s soul.” She opined that it was “our duty to right this wrong and put an end to veteran homelessness once and for all.” But while that might have made for a compelling speech – after all, who could really disagree? – a new internal investigation shows that the VA is not doing any better in their outreach to homeless veterans than they are in caring for the sick.
The report showed that of the nearly 80,000 homeless vets who reached out to the VA’s National Call Center last year, nearly 27 percent were forced to leave a message, 16 percent couldn’t be contacted, and 4 percent weren’t referred to a nearby facility at all. The investigation concluded that “the Call Center lacked adequate management and operational controls to ensure homeless veterans had around-the-clock access to counselors and received needed homeless support services.”
According to the VA’s website, the agency is “committed to ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.” But, again, these are just empty words unless backed up by measurable action. While the department claims its putting energy and resources into resolving the problem, the investigation demonstrates that there is still a long way to go.
A Problem That Deserves Real Attention
The president has made veteran issues a political priority from time to time in his six years, but the men and women who have given so much in defense of this country are still waiting for things to improve. The VA health scandal rocked the administration, and many observers wondered how Obama could have been so clueless when it came to the mismanagement of the department. Was this a case of incompetency, or did Obama think the problems could be swept under the carpet?
The truth is that detainees at Gitmo are given better medical treatment than many of the people who fought for the United States. Michelle Obama was right on the money when she spoke of a “national stain,” but it doesn’t do any good to talk about it if nothing meaningful is done to stop it.