Today, of course, is the seventieth day of the Allied invasion of Normandy. We will be regaled with films of American soldiers under fire as they hit the beach. Just about all of those films will, by necessity, come from one beach–Omaha. So what about the rest of the Allied forces that participated in the immense Operation Overlord?
It’s worth remembering that there were five invasion beaches at Normandy: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The last three were taken by the Canadians, British and Free French. It’s become an unfortunate American conceit to forget that we did have allies and that, without them, World War II would not have been won. (The Russians reminded me of that alliance when I visited them twenty years ago).
Beyond that, the American invasion at Utah Beach tends to be forgotten in the immediate drama of Omaha. Utah was an uneventful landing as amphibious invasions go, punctuated by the explosion of underwater mines. The 82nd and 101st Airborne were a part of that, and their D-Day experience was as tough as anyone’s. The hard part for Utah’s invaders came afterwards, when they moved up towards Cherbourg and found themselves in the thick hedgerows which favoured the defender.
One of those was my father-in-law, who served in the 12th Infantry Regiment and who was nearly blown to pieces a couple of days after the landing. He ended up 100% disabled, and that in turn placed him in the care of the Veterans Administration, the subject of one of the latest scandals. So some comment based on experience is in order.
The problems of the VA are of long-standing, as anyone who’s had any experience with the organisation is well aware. One the one hand, the VA was in later years generous with its benefits, and gave a good life to my in-laws, better than many of their contemporaries simply on Social Security and Medicare. My wife got her education on the GI Bill.
On the other hand the VA is an opaque bureaucracy with a Byzantine structure where it takes a great deal of effort to find the “right people” to get what the law and regulations allow. It’s easy to get stymied in the process of getting a determination or approval of benefits. I don’t think our experience is unique in that regard; dealing with the VA can be very frustrating.
One thing that complicated our situation was that, although we had easy access to an outpatient clinic, using the VA for hospital care required a fair amount of travelling. Our solution for this was to use Medicare and stay in town (they had CHAMPUS to cover the difference). I think that’s a solution that the VA would do well to consider for conditions that can be treated outside of the system.
Turning to the current situation, I think the Occupant was between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the VA was the “single payer/single provider” type of system that was and is the end game of the left’s idea of health care in the United States. Making it work properly and well would have been a strong selling point to move the rest of the system in that direction. On the other hand, the left’s perennial dislike of the military left them unmotivated to tackle the VA’s problems.
Had the Occupant taken a longer view of the politics–and a more energetic one at that–he would have done more to upgrade the VA. But he didn’t, and now all of us are dealing with the fallout.
As far as the waiting lists (and the people dying on them) are concerned, as I pointed out a long time ago, you can’t have a single payer system without rationing and “death panels” (or something like them) in place without bankrupting the system. It’s that simple. Most countries that nationalise their health care do so with a population which by and large doesn’t have access to it and for which it’s an improvement, even with rationing. The Occupant had the bad timing to move in that direction (to be honest, a single payer system would be an improvement over Obamacare) with a population which has been spoiled, not only with the health care it has but by corporations which provide fast and efficient customer service and which make the government look bad by comparison.