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‘Sesame Street’ scandal rocks Department of Veterans Affairs

Over the past several months, we have discussed some of the numerous scandals currently tied to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These scandals have focused primarily on delays in care that the nation’s veterans have experienced at various medical facilities run by the agency and delays in both initial claim and appeal-related decisions for veterans benefits. Unfortunately, a new scandal has erupted at the Department of Veterans Affairs and it is anything but amusing.

According to the New York Daily News, a slideshow presentation presented to agency employees last month depicts frustrated veterans as the “Sesame Street” character Oscar the Grouch. Oscar is a frustrated and cranky character who lives in a garbage can and enjoys being filthy, frustrated and isolated. The idea that the federal agency most directly tasked with serving our nation’s veterans feels it appropriate to depict them as cranky, filthy, isolationist characters is reprehensible.

The presentation is titled “What to Say to Oscar the Grouch - Dealing with Veterans During Town Hall Claims Clinics,” and consists of 18 pages of slides. As one can tell from the title of this presentation, the Oscar the Grouch reference was not one made carelessly or in passing. This reference set the tone of the entire presentation and the approach the agency is currently taking in regards to veterans who are invested enough in the process to show up and have their voices heard.

The only potentially positive outcome of this scandal is that it will hopefully inspire VA administrators to mandate educational and sensitivity training for employees so that the nation’s veterans are never again exposed to such ill treatment.

Source: New York Daily News, “Department of Veterans Affairs training guide depicts upset veterans as Oscar the Grouch: report,” Michael Sorrentino, Aug. 29, 2014

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