It is a little bit funny — and certainly not in the ‘ha ha’ way — that one of the top features on the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site touts regular testing for HIV/AIDS testing. Make that downright ironic.
Now more than ever would be a good time for some veterans to get tested, especially if they are VA patients and especially if they had dental treatment at the John Cochran VA hospital in St. Louis. More than 1,800 patients received letters from the VA saying that sterilization of some dental equipment had not been up to standards and could have created a “low risk for infection.”
This is not the first such breakdown leading to risk of diseases involving the VA. In 2008, the VA reached out to more than 10,000 patients who might have been exposed to diseases such as Hepatitis through “cross-contamination” of endoscopes at three different hospitals across the country. The VA has also received a bevy of bad publicity over the years because of issues such as substandard care of elderly and with cleanliness problems at several hospitals.
These are just a few of the many problems the VA has had to deal with ranging from veterans benefits claims stacking up to long waiting times to see medical specialists. It is hard to imagine the ones not reported. Many problems, big and small, never see the light of day because so many of the VA patients are of that “greatest generation” and some slightly younger whose habit it is not to complain. “Things were screwed up in the Army,” some of these old timers think. “So it is sure to be screwed up in the VA.” And sometimes, thing are really screwed up.
I have to say that I am disappointed with retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shenseki, the secretary of veterans affairs. I would have thought he would have brought some good ol’ Army butt-kicking with him to the cabinet post. Yet, I have seen no indication that the VA has vastly improved under his tenure.
I sure hope that changes before people start actually catching these diseases like HIV from behavior no more risky than going to the dentist.