EDITORIAL: Strange priorities at the VA — Washington Times

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The admin­is­tra­tors at the Vet­er­ans Admin­is­tra­tion have appar­ent­ly been busy while old sol­diers wait­ed to see a doc­tor, after all. Serv­ing those who served is not nec­es­sar­i­ly a pri­or­i­ty, but sav­ing the plan­et is Job 1. Solar pan­els and wind­mills can be more impor­tant than the touch of a heal­ing hand.

The depart­ment ear­ly on set up an Office of Green Man­age­ment Pro­grams designed to “help VA facil­i­ties nation­wide rec­og­nize oppor­tu­ni­ties to green VA, and to reward inno­v­a­tive ‘green’ prac­tices and efforts by indi­vid­ual facil­i­ties and staff with­in the VA.” This some­times means pay­ing more atten­tion to green­ing the depart­ment and sav­ing the polar ice caps than to health care.

In the department’s words, it adopt­ed a far more impor­tant mis­sion to “become more ener­gy effi­cient and sus­tain­able, focus­ing pri­mar­i­ly on renew­able ener­gy, ener­gy and water effi­cien­cy, [car­bon-diox­ide] emis­sions reduc­tion, and sus­tain­able buildings.”

The green office isn’t mere­ly a desk and tele­phone tucked away in the dark cor­ner of a non­de­script gov­ern­ment build­ing. It’s a sub­stan­tial under­tak­ing, with all the lux­u­ry, bells and whis­tles of a bureau­cra­cy that means busi­ness. Eric K. Shin­se­ki, who resigned as sec­re­tary in the wake of the VA scan­dal of the sin of omis­sion, trav­eled the coun­try to boast of the green ini­tia­tive. In one instance, he trav­eled to Mass­a­chu­setts to flick the switch at a half-mil­lion-dol­lar wind­mill project at the Mass­a­chu­setts Nation­al Ceme­tery. “Nation­al­ly,” he said, “VA con­tin­ues to expand its invest­ment in renew­able sources of ener­gy to pro­mote our nation’s ener­gy inde­pen­dence, save tax­pay­er dol­lars, and improve care for our vet­er­ans and their families.

VA facil­i­ties have become lit­tered with every scheme to ban­ish car­bon diox­ide short of requir­ing vis­i­tors to hold their breath. Calver­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery spent $742,034 on solar pan­els. Fort Rose­crans Nation­al Ceme­tery spent $787,308. Not to be out-greened, the River­side Nation­al Ceme­tery spent $1.3 mil­lion on its solar system.

At the Phoenix VA Health Care Sys­tem, where 20 Amer­i­cans died from incom­pe­tence and cov­er-up, the depart­ment spent $20 mil­lion putting solar pan­els on the hos­pi­tal roofs. That would have been more than enough mon­ey to pro­vide the vet­er­ans with the health care they deserved.

Some admin­is­tra­tors won’t be sat­is­fied until every fed­er­al build­ing bears a green stamp. In mil­i­tary par­lance, the VA is prac­tic­ing “mis­sion creep,” the expan­sion of a project well beyond its intend­ed goals. While the rest of the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to waste tax­pay­er funds try­ing to become car­bon-diox­ide neu­tral, the VA should be spend­ing every avail­able dol­lar to relieve pain, cure the sick and restore the deserv­ing to health. That’s more impor­tant than any fad, envi­ron­men­tal or otherwise.