Huntington, W.Va. – Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant reiterated her call for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs watchdog to include West Virginia in its nationwide investigations, during a speech at the Veterans of Foreign War’s 93rd Annual State Convention in Huntington today.
Tennant, whose father served in the Korean War and husband served in Afghanistan, also did some investigating of her own, meeting with VA officials at the convention and asking tough questions about reported wait times in West Virginia.
“When I see wait times at the VA are hurting our veterans – and worse, the people we trust to take care of them lied about it – my blood boils,” Tennant said holding up her military ID card. “That could be my dad or my husband. But it shouldn’t be anyone’s loved one. Not here in America. Not in West Virginia.”
In a letter to Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin in May, Secretary Tennant lauded the many caring, competent West Virginia health professionals who work hard to care for veterans every day. But, she said systemic problems within the VA itself are clearly keeping too many veterans from getting the care they deserve. Tennant urged the VA watchdog to include West Virginia in investigations into wait times at facilities across the country.
According to reports, as many as 26 VA facilities are now under formal investigation after reports that at least 40 American veterans died while waiting for care in Arizona.
At the convention Tennant also presented the organizers with a special Certificate of Commendation. Secretary Tennant thanked the organizers of the annual convention, honoring them for their dedication not only to the VFW but also to the communities which they serve.
“The Veterans of Foreign Wars is comprised of individuals who wish to remain active after their military service, hoping to help further the American ideals of civic duty, community service, and volunteerism,” Secretary Tennant wrote.
Tennant detailed the process that allows deployed military and their family to vote easily and securely via email – a process that increases the chances that the ballot is received by the county clerk in time to be counted.
“It is a travesty – and I don’t use that word lightly – a travesty that there could be a West Virginian in harm’s way in a war zone whose vote didn’t count simply because it took too long getting back home,” Secretary Tennant said. “That is something that could not be and has not been tolerated, and the Secretary of State’s Office has offered new ways for deployed military and their families to make sure their voice is heard on Election Day from anywhere in the world.”
Secretary Tennant thanked the men and women attending the conference for their service, taking a moment observe last week’s 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in World War II. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, only about 10,800 World War II veterans are still living in West Virginia.
The convention concluded on Saturday with the presentation of the Rich Homan Award, named after the former national VFW Commander in Chief and Pendleton County native.