As the century turns, the year of the veteran is growing increasingly fraught, ever more competitive, and more ambiguous.
The tide in Congress has turned against the VA, as the government accuses it of deeply underfunding health care for veterans, while many veterans have become disgruntled with what they see as the agency’s stalling and even outright negligence. The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, many veterans say, leave them marked and deformed forever, and are too often dismissed by VA specialists and health care officials, a system that has been hobbled by decades of poor leadership and dismal organizational governance.
In recent years, there has been a dramatic change in attitudes toward vets among lawmakers and a shift in advocacy. Independent activists and nonprofits, disgusted with the rigid hierarchy and bureaucratic infighting of the VA, have begun to come together, join forces, and put forth more ambitious initiatives, in the process fostering a kind of noblesse oblige from the ranks. A movement has developed that argues that veterans are competent enough to select their own health care providers.