How should we, as a nation, care for our veterans? That question is the focus of national debate raging as Congress and the White House bicker over funding for veterans' health care, hospitals and long-term care.
This debate, however, is not necessarily split along party lines. It is split among states and regions. While the president and congressional leaders are sparring over big-picture funding questions, senators and representatives are working to secure funding for veterans facilities in their states and districts.
Hundreds of communities throughout this nation _ including Walla Walla _ host facilities that treat and care for veterans.
It is vital to the veterans served by these facilities that sufficient funds are allocated.
Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Wash., was in Walla Walla. The Jonathan M.
Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center was one of her stops.
In fact, she planned her visit to Walla Walla around a meeting to discuss the future of the hospital.
McMorris was here to gather as much information as possible about the Walla Walla hospital so that when changes to the mission of the local hospital are considered, she will have the ammunition to back up her fight to secure more funding.
McMorris has been working with U.S. Sen.
Patty Murray, D-Wash., to ensure that Wainwright is maintained as a full-service hospital.
``I believe she has done a tremendous job already'' in protecting the local hospital from cuts, McMorris said of Murray.
Republicans and Democrats across the country are tag-teaming like McMorris and Murray to protect local interests.
Frankly, it shouldn't have come to that. The federal government should be pouring more money into veterans' care across the nation.
This country is at war and thousands of soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with wounds so serious they will require a lifetime of expensive medical care.
Yet, there are proposals on the table to cut $350 million in funding for long-term veteran care, which could eliminate 5,000 beds in nursing homes. In addition, President Bush is proposing to double co-pays for prescription drugs from $7 to $15.
Instead of dinging veterans for their medical care, we should be praising them for their service. We have an obligation to provide them first-class care.
Walla Walla has a time-worn facility with a superlative medical staff. The federal government should be looking at ways to build on it and make it far better.
This nation's veterans deserve it. When they offer to sacrifice their lives, we have an absolute duty to provide excellent care at accessible locations.