Maybe the problem here is that the Department of Veterans Affairs is as clueless as it is careless. Earlier this year, Buffalo’s VA hospital was found to have reused insulin pens, potentially exposing patients to HIV and hepatitis.
Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs has, for mysterious reasons, canceled a six-day athletic event in Buffalo that will cost the community more than $2 million and disappoint more than 2,500 veterans and their families, sponsors and supporters.
The 2013 National Veterans Golden Age Games were expected to bring 1,000 veterans to Buffalo for six days of athletic competition this spring. But the games were summarily canceled by the VA, after six years of planning, only two weeks after the VA had signed contracts for the event and only 10 weeks before the competition was to begin. It was shameful.
Left holding the bag are four downtown hotels that had booked guests; venues including the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, Erie Community College and Amherst’s Audubon Golf Course, among others; and, of course, the veterans who were going to compete. Those would be the people the VA was created to serve.
The VA said, vaguely, that its decision was financial, related to the general state of the economy and not the sequestration from which the VA was exempted. But it has offered only double-talk to justify its decision to leave Buffalo and 1,000 veterans in the lurch:
“In an effort to ensure we meet the high standards of excellence, good governance and efficiency, we evaluate each event, program and initiative for alignment with the department’s core mission and priorities,” the statement said. “After going through a comprehensive assessment, VA has decided to postpone the 2013 National Veterans Golden Age Games in Buffalo, New York.”
Surely, though, the VA would have performed that evaluation before it signed contracts for the event two weeks ago. How could it not have unless, in addition to being clueless and careless, it is also incompetent?
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, wasn’t buying it, noting that “the VA made a commitment to this region; local businesses and organizers have invested time and money to ensure this VA event would be a success; and with just 10 weeks to go, the VA abruptly and unjustifiably is walking away from Western New York and the nearly 1,000 veterans who have been planning and looking forward to this event. It’s just not right.”
It is not, and Higgins shouldn’t be alone in protesting this cavalier decision, especially since games planned for North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and California remain on the schedule.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and New York’s two senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, should be lending their weight to this matter before the VA’s action results in decisions that cannot be reversed.