Every year I get calls and letters from Veterans who think the V.A. has been cut. This has never happened, and in fact, we usually give the biggest percentage increases to the V.A.
I have helped thousands of Veterans and those on active duty and have great respect for them. The word 'hero' is tossed around too lightly today, but I think anyone who puts their life on the line for their country deserves that description.
But it makes no sense and really is unpatriotic and a disservice to the taxpayers to not criticize billions in waste if it is done by the Defense Department or even the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I also find it very unpatriotic to send trillions of dollars overseas to countries that hate us or do not appreciate it when there are so many unmet needs here at home.
Veterans deserve everything we have promised them and then some, and we should be putting our own country first.
The number of Veterans has declined by several million in recent years due to deaths and decreases in the numbers of our military.
Yet the problems in the V.A. and complaints by Veterans about poor treatment and long delays have grown by leaps and bounds.
It is definitely not a money problem because no department or agency has received the mega-billions and high percentage increases that the Congress has given to the V.A.
Yet despite years of criticism from Members of Congress and the media, the problems have grown worse.
The only effective solution is competition.
I said in a speech to a Veterans group many years ago that eligible veterans should be given a card and allowed to go to any hospital they choose, including those considered to be the best in the Nation.
In this way, V.A. hospitals would be forced to provide better service or Congress could and should close the ones with rapidly declining and/or very low occupancy rates.
In 2012, the House passed by a vote of 417 – 0 a bill I introduced to name the Knoxville Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic after William C. Tallent. Bill Tallent in World War II made a daring escape from a German prisoner of war camp. He and a fellow prisoner hid for months, sleeping in cemeteries, foraging for food, wearing tattered clothing, until they made it to the American front. He was wounded twice and earned the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
He served as Knox County’s elected Commissioner of Finance from 1953 to 1980 and was a leader in veterans groups and the Civil Air Patrol. In 1963, he ran against my father for Mayor of Knoxville, but in a campaign that would be very unusual today, neither one attacked the other, and they remained friends throughout and afterwards.
Bill Tallent is a patriotic American who served this Country well both in wartime and throughout his life.