The motto of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan. The nation has long accepted a responsibility to provide for the medical needs of men and women who have served in uniform in war and peace. But in recent years, it has struggled to fulfill that mission in a way that does justice to the sacrifices of those it serves.
For years, those in need of medical care have faced long waits to see doctors or had to travel long distances to get care. This problem arose under President George W. Bush and persisted under Barack Obama as two lengthy wars and the aging of the Vietnam War cohort boosted the number of people needing care.
The department has been dogged by patient backlogs, ethical scandals and unsatisfactory performance. Secretary David Shulkin was fired last March, and on Thursday the departments inspector general released a report that said he violated federal statutes and regulations prohibiting the misuse of government property and the acceptance of certain gifts.