“When we stand together there is nothing,
nothing, nothing we cannot accomplish.”
In my youth, I was never a fan of politics. Mostly because, I once worked for a Fortune 500 Corporation as their PAC Administrator. I experienced firsthand how major organizations dole out large sums of money to politicians they buy with their PAC funds. This job highly enlightened me to the true inner workings of politics.
My view of politicians changed dramatically, when in 1993 I saw Bernie Sanders, Independent Vermont Senator interviewed on CSPAN. I had never heard of Sanders before, but he caught my attention that day. He was the first politician I ever saw who was honest and real, which is never two words that are used simultaneously when describing a political figure.
In the past several decades Sanders has never wavered in his viewpoint against wars, helping veterans, private health care options for veterans, improving our healthcare system and attempting to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. Funny, how half of America despises the only politician who can’t be bought and never changes his moral values and conduct.
My late husband was a disabled Vietnam veteran. As a wife/caregiver, I always followed any and all news about veterans. Back in 2013, I was watching closely a Veterans Bill that was being turned down by both Democrats and Republicans. At the time, Bernie Sanders was the chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee. Sanders was working tirelessly to get this bill passed. An important bill that would help all veterans.
Meanwhile, during the fight over the bill, national news broke that Veterans across the country were waiting months on end for appointments and the wait times were being hidden. Up to 40 veterans in Phoenix died while waiting for appointments. Hundreds never even got onto a list. And retaliation was the order of the day for those who tried to blow the whistle.
It turned out that nationwide, the VA was coping with the spike in demand by delaying appointments and treatment, manipulating schedules, falsifying records and possibly engaging in fraud. An interim report from the VA Inspector General on May 28, 2014 found it was taking an average 115 days for veterans in Phoenix to get primary care, as opposed to the 24 days shown on official records and 1,700 people seeking appointments were not on any list at all. The IG called the Phoenix problems systemic and said he had opened investigations at 42 VA health centers. On June 9, the VA reported that 57,000 veterans at its facilities were waiting more than 90 days for an appointment, and another 64,000 were not on a waiting list although they had sought care.
My husband and I were not surprised by the news reports concerning the deaths and wait times. We had experienced personally these same problems with the VA for years.
From the moment the scandal broke in April 2014, it took Congress less than four months to produce a new law, a split second by Capitol Hill standards. That it happened at all, and so fast, was a testament to the determination of Sanders and his partners to surmount the red-blue divide in American politics.
In the end, both votes were close to unanimous, a 420-5 in the House and 91-3 in the Senate. Obama signed the VA bill August 7, 2014. The new law, helped ensure that veterans have access to the care that they’ve earned.
Before this bill passed, my husband and I were stressed dealing with the VA and their lack of medical care. I would often wait hours on hold, get disconnected and worse yet, couldn’t get a needed doctor appointment for my husband. After the bill passed, I saw a dramatic improvement in the respect my husband received along with improved medical care and response times from the VA. The biggest improvement was the use of non-VA medical care my husband desperately required.
I truly believe, without Bernie Sanders determination to help veterans, the problems at VA medical facilities would have never improved and more deaths would have occurred.
Most people only know Sanders as that old crazy Independent Senator from Vermont who ran for president in 2016. But, that all changed when Bernie showed up at the 2021 Biden Inauguration dressed in casual attire wearing a heavy parka and hand-made wool mittens from a Sanders fan.
As of today, that image of Bernie bundled up has not only created countless memes and late night jokes, the senator seized on the opportunity to reprint the image on different products that he began selling on his website, Berniesanders.com the following day. The merchandise all sold out in less than 30 minutes, and Bernie has raised over $1.8 million for charities in his home state.
“Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week, and we’re glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need,” Sanders said in a written statement.
My son knows how much respect I have for Bernie Sanders, so this past week, he texted me a photo of a mural that a local artist created of Bernie.
I probably will never have the honor of meeting Mr. Sanders. So, being the die-hard Bernie fan that I am, I drove to Culver City and got the next best thing. A photo of this giant, magnificent fresco of my hero, Bernie Sanders bundled up.