The Rest of the VA Scandal Iceberg: Exposing Secrets

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D. in Science Isn’t Golden

Good it is that some Veterans Affairs cover-ups are now widely known, but the rest of the iceberg remains dangerously hidden. A primary reason for what remains hidden and for the extremely late exposure of the cover-ups now in the news is that American veterans are largely invisible to most other citizens.

We live in a nation that is not only war-illiterate but even military-illiterate,* because Americans don’t like to think about war, veterans comprise less than 7% of the population, and war veterans are “the other 1%.” It is rare for anyone who doesn’t live with a veteran to choose to meet, get to know, or listen to a veteran. This leads to often soul-crushing isolation for veterans and their loved ones, and it creates in this country a dangerous divide, one whose disastrous consequences are still developing — largely invisibly — even as I write.

Most Americans go about their daily lives heedless of the needs and goals of veterans and their families, with the exception of the occasional Congressional Medal of Honor recipient’s appearance on a talk show, a few commercials, knee-jerk “Thank you for your service” statements, and tear-jerker media stories about a deployed parent returning home and surprising their child at a major sporting event that is televised on the big screen, denying the child and parent privacy and the freedom to focus on what they each really need at that moment.

Small wonder that the current scandal about some VA officials’ schemes to conceal the excruciatingly long periods of time many veterans were kept waiting comes as a surprise. Any nonveteran who had bothered listening to a veteran or two would at least have known about the wait times if not the purposeful concealment of their lengths.

I hope that every nonveteran who reads this will consider marking Memorial Day by listening — just sitting and listening — to a veteran from any era. Col. (Ret.) David Sutherland, founder and head of the important Dixon Center of Easter Seals** that helps communities come together to support veterans and their families, speaks often about the harm done when what happens on deployments become secrets back home.

Veterans’ loved ones already carry unfairly the lion’s share of responsibility for providing support and understanding to veterans, and their wider communities need to offer to listen to both veterans and those close to them. That is what The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project is about, and it is as simple as it sounds — just listening but doing so with respect and one’s whole heart — and is powerful and positively transformative for both veteran and listener, far beyond what most people would expect.*** The very simple information for prospective listeners and for veterans is at

Read more: