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Editorial: Veterans deserve better

Memorial Day, coming up in just over a week, takes on special meaning this year as controversy grows over delays in the federal Department of Veterans Affairs' health care that have resulted in the deaths of some veterans.

The latest controversy, coming just a few years after the VA was put in the spotlight for poor treatment of veterans at some VA hospitals, demonstrates that as a nation we have yet to fully commit to supporting the men and women who served their country.

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In a May 7 story, CNN noted that it had been "reporting on delays in care and patient deaths at VA hospitals for the past six months, including at hospitals in South Carolina, Georgia and Texas."

"After CNN's coverage, the VA acknowledged in April that 23 veterans had died as a result of delayed care in recent years, but sources tell CNN that number could be much higher," the CNN story noted.

Even one premature death due to a failure of the VA to provide care is too many for a country that prides itself in supporting the men and women who serve their country.

Veterans' groups are among those calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, but so far Shinseki has said he won't step down. Leadership always comes into question in times of controversy, but the truth is that the problems go much deeper.

Officials at all levels of government have known for years that the VA lacks the resources to adequately serve the growing number of veterans who come under the agency's care. Throwing money at a problem usually isn't the best way to resolve it, but when you know that there are too few doctors, too few counselors and too little help, then providing additional resources to fill the gaps should be a priority.

The problem begins with the White House and the Obama administration. It threads through the Senate and House of Representatives and ultimately it lands on the shoulders of Shinseki. At all levels of leadership, taking care of our veterans needs to be an issue of utmost importance.

Our growing record of poor service to the men and women who provided excellent service to their country needs to change. They were there when the nation needed them, and we, as a nation, must be there when they need us.

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