Americans this week got a look at the report of an audit of Veterans Affairs facilities sparked by an investigation into criminal violations that may have included secret waiting times, falsified records, destruction of documents and other potential offenses against our nation's military veterans.
Among the startling findings in the audit was the revelation that the VA Center in Clarksburg has an average wait time for initial visits of 54 days. That and other findings placed the facility at Clarksburg at No. 5 on the list of Phase One facilities that "require further review," according to auditors. The facility in Martinsburg also was high on the Phase One list.
But buried a little deeper in the report of the audit was a more disturbing listing, hitting much closer to home. In the list of Phase Two facilities requiring further review, the clinic in Wood County was No. 2 and Westover, W.Va., was in the first spot.
In the report, the list is explained as "a preliminary step, and further action will be taken after the determination of the extent of issues related to scheduling and access" management practices.
By way of response to reporter inquiries about the Wood County listing, Parkersburg representatives deferred to state-level officials.
Rick Thompson, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, said "I am hopeful that (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) will continue to address any deficiencies so that all veterans, in West Virginia and throughout the country, are provided the care they so deserve."
Such a vanilla answer is profoundly disturbing. Every effort must be made at the local level to get to the bottom of this failure. If investigators discover crimes took place, those responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
West Virginians serve our country at a rate matched by almost no other state. As of September, 9.3 percent of the state's population were veterans. Doing right by, and showing our appreciation for, veterans, especially here in Wood County, is a high priority. Just take a look at the effort to return the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to Parkersburg this summer.
If veterans are being done the disservice indicated by this audit, especially here at home, officials should stop at nothing to fix the problem. Now.