VA reform needed this Memorial Day

First Posted: 5/23/2014

Happy Memorial Day! This week marks one of our nation’s most sacred holidays. Although we should be thankful each and every day, we set aside this day to come together with family, friends and neighbors to honor and remember members of the United States Armed Forces who have died while serving our country.

This is a day that we will join together with our fellow Americans in remembrance of our patriots who put their lives on the line and made the greatest possible sacrifice for our country. We would not be able to enjoy this day and this weekend if it weren’t for that sacrifice. We celebrate those heroic men and women who displayed unparalleled dedication to our freedom. These brave warfighters have died to preserve democracy, our shared values and our land, and their memory and their sacrifices will not be forgotten. As we remember those we lost, let us also keep in our thoughts and prayers our veterans, our active service members, and our military families.

I believe our men and women in uniform represent the best our nation has to offer, and North Carolina is fortunate to be called home by thousands of veterans. During a telephone town hall last year, I had the privilege of speaking with one of these retired soldiers, a World War II veteran from Monroe. This gentleman asked that I never neglect my duty of taking care of our veterans, and I told him that taking care of our retired service members and those who have been injured in the line of duty is one of my most sacred responsibilities. I have thought often about this WWII veteran’s request, especially now with the recent news of the despicable backlog and employee misconduct at the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Recent investigations have uncovered an alarming level of incompetence and deplorable conditions that led to the death of veterans in Arizona. President Obama can claim he’s “madder than hell” and hold all the press conferences he wants, but the American people deserve substantive action now. This culture of unaccountability extends to the most senior levels of the VA and ultimately requires a change of leadership in order to be truly resolved. Secretary Eric Shinseki has had a long and distinguished career, and I am very grateful for his service to our country, but it has become clear that he has lost the trust of the public. It is time for him to step aside to allow new leadership to come in and clean up the department.

This week, I joined my colleagues to co-sponsor H.Con.Resolution 98 to call on President Obama to immediately demand Secretary Shinseki’s resignation so that we can move forward and finally offer the care that our brave men and women deserve. This is merely the first step, and I will continue to work tirelessly to address the serious issues at the VA to ensure that our heroes are treated with dignity and respect. Additionally, my Congressional office stands ready to help veterans navigate through the bureaucracy and backlog at the VA.

This Memorial Day, I ask you to thank a veteran and challenge you to do all that you can to serve your country and to be worthy of the sacrifice of so many of our heroes. Many of these fallen heroes are complete strangers to you and me, but we are forever indebted to them and their loved ones. We will never be able to repay our fellow Americans who were willing to lay down their lives to allow us to live without worry and the United States of America to remain free. To the members of the United States Armed Forces, past and present, thank you for your service.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, represents North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District in the United States House. The district includes all of Richmond County.