School of Nursing

November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019

Too few people will pause today and give military veterans the thanks they deserve. Even fewer will consider the failure of the health care system to provide prompt, compassionate and capable care to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.

We owe veterans far more than a parade or a medal. Many who serve suffer grievous physical injuries. Many others suffer from mental health issues related to what they witnessed or endured in war-torn areas. Yet time after time, the level of care provided to military veterans has been exposed as “too little, too late.”

Tens of billions of dollars are spent on military equipment. Far too little is spent seeing that veterans are taken care of medically.

Military service is a social contract. In exchange for putting themselves at risk, we have an obligation to care for those who voluntarily serve their country. The failure to fully fulfill this contract by providing a consistently high level of medical care to our veterans is a wrong that we should make right.

It is shameful that veterans have had to fight for treatment of Agent Orange exposure that occurred in the Vietnam War. It is shameful that veterans are committing suicide at an unprecedented rate. It is shameful that veterans who suffered radiation exposure from early testing of atomic weapons still struggle to have their cancers and other injuries recognized as service-related.

Putting these wrongs right is a reachable goal, but it will involve an investment of both financial and human resources. Both must be made available.

Nurses have an important role to play in making the system work better. Deploying more nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other advanced practice nurses will enable the Veterans Administration to provide better, more sustained care more quickly. Doing so would be an important step in fulfilling the social contact with our military veterans.

Take a moment today to think about the freedoms and security you enjoy, and how many tens of millions of veterans over the decades have made that possible. Thank each veteran you know or see, and join me in being an advocate for all veterans receiving exceptional health care.