Veterans Medical Scandal: Reigniting American Altruism

May 30, 2014 5:03 am Last Updated: April 24, 2016 6:35 am

During international travel, one becomes aware of a striking difference between America and many other nations: the pride with which we honor our flag throughout public places.

As one walks the streets of our cities, American flags are proudly displayed everywhere. Our flag is more than fabric—it is our sacred symbol of respect for America. It reminds us of the unity, devotion, and sacrifices made to preserve our freedom. 

But with the current veteran’s medical scandal, honoring our flag must be reignited with action for those in need. America must assist our veterans who have honored the flag by serving their country. A nation’s greatness is measured in the manner by which those in need are served. America must have a heart of altruism—serving veterans when the wounds of war, sickness, and age fail them.

Current Veterans Medical Scandal

During the last few weeks, a medical scandal has blistered America’s conscience—and there is no end in site as the crisis continues to unfold. Reports paint a heart-wrenching commentary on the scope of the scandal including:

  • Deaths of veterans at VA hospitals nationwide due to treatment delays and the manipulation of patient waiting times—commonly referred to as “cooking the books”
  • A secret list at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, used to falsify wait times, which may have contributed to the deaths of as many as 40 veterans
  • Email documentation from a Cheyenne, Wyo., veterans facility on “gaming the system a bit”
  • A list of patients requiring care being kept on paper at a Gainesville, Fla., VA hospital—not in the VA’s computerized system. Three supervisors were placed on paid leave.
  • The American Legion commander’s statement, “a pattern of scandals that has infected the entire system”
  • Lawmakers reprimanding VA officials at a hearing stating the scandal is an outrage and American disaster

Veterans Administration: A Troubled History

The recent timeline of VA troubles includes:

  • Extreme ethical violations in 1999 by hospital researchers at the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center—with failures for patient consents before conducting research involving them
  • A 2003 presidential commission reporting over 236,000 veterans waiting six months or more for medical assistance
  • VA officials receiving bonuses up to $33,000 in 2007 despite hundreds of thousands of backlogged cases nationwide
  • Squalid conditions at the former Walter Reed Medical Center in 2007—one of America’s so-called premier military medical facilities. The secretary of defense at the time stated, “The problem at Walter Reed appears to be problems of leadership.”
  • Indictment of a VA director from Ohio in 2013 for taking bribes to steer contracts to a company

America’s Call to Leadership in a Culture of Scandals

Since the Columbine tragedy in 1999, I have been privileged to address audiences nationwide on America’s leadership crisis.

Although often inspired by exemplary Americans, I have also experienced, in various schools, communities, and agencies, a culture of apathy and antagonism—so contradictory to the ideals of America and the dignity our flag signifies. Contrary to this negativity, I continually encourage altruism—so critical to leadership principles.

The principles of altruistic leadership are critical to America. I define this leadership style as a selfless ethical code that is fully dedicated to the welfare of others. Altruistic leadership is the golden rule in action: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When altruism comes from the heart, it cultivates compassion, respect, and dignity and is powerfully transforming. When altruism is present, leadership makes an impact, fostering achievements, character, and community.

Altruism—The Heart of America’s Action Plan

Many more details will come forth in the VA scandal. There will be reviews, political maneuvering through committee hearings, terminations, public chastisements, political appointees, and sophisticated action plans. But only when America reignites a culture of authentic altruism as the heart of any action plan will we see authentic transformation and the reawakening of the nation.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see