The VA Rehabilitates Itself

A polished new video series touts veteran success stories. Will the department make more of them happen?

The video above, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has a clear message: rebirth, new opportunities, unlikely success. It’s one of the vignettes in a video series that appears to be a part of a concentrated PR push to rehab the VA’s own image after a notorious series of public failures and scandals.

At its best, of course, the VA is supposed to work like it did for the veteran in the video, Brandon. His story is tragically familiar: After losing a fellow Marine during a combat mission, Brandon started drinking to suppress his nightmares. He says he found the help he needed at his local veteran’s hospital.

Why did he succeed where others have failed? He got timely appointments at a good hospital close to home. He had family and friends who supported and encouraged him. He used the Post 9/11 GI Bill at a college that supported his goals. Now he’s building a business preserving Native American culture.

Stories like his shouldn’t be outliers; they should be ordinary. In the video, Brandon says his hospital has lots of doctors, but most of the system is trying to deal with massive doctor shortages and excessive wait times, which continue to plague too many hospitals in the VA system.

To the department’s credit, polished videos with touching stories can be important because they might encourage veterans to get help when they might not otherwise. But when they get in the system, the VA needs to guarantee resources that support similar outcomes. Then we’d have a lot more stories like this one.