Thursday, June 01, 2006

Vets Data Theft Being Soft-Pedaled?

One side writes: Why is the Richmond Times-Dispatch running so many stories on the front page about a local TV show contestant? It’s ridiculous! The other side writes back: What’s wrong with reading about our beloved Elliott? Do "they" want to read more stories about bad things, crime and such?

That’s my summary of the letters-to-the-editor battle that has been raging for weeks, concerning the newspaper’s coverage of the American Idol phenomenon. As I’ve never watched that television program, I haven’t bothered to read much of the press about Elliott Yamin. So I haven’t read all the letters, either, but I have read enough of them to see the patterns.

So, I’d like to help out the side that’s been saying of the Elliott stories, “Enough is enough!” Here’s what was wrong with too many stories about an overnight TV celebrity -- it moved "other" stories to page nine. In fact, that’s where the AP story that reveals more bad news on the veterans’ stolen data scandal was in today‘s RT-D.

“Personal information on 26.5 million veterans that was stolen from a Veterans Affairs employee last month included not only Social Security numbers and birthdates but in many cases phone numbers and addresses, internal documents show.”

“...Veterans groups have criticized the VA for a three-week delay in publicizing the burglary after the theft at a VA data analyst's home in Maryland. During hearings last week, Nicholson said he was "mad as hell" that employees did not notify him of the May 3 burglary until May 16.”

This disturbing story about a massive theft of personal data, together with the government’s slow-as-water-torture way of letting the vets know of their exposure to danger, seems to me to be something that ought to be outraging a lot of people.

Sadly, for me, this shockingly bad treatment of American veterans fits a pattern. It’s a pattern I’ve seen since I was a kid who saw his grandfather’s painful mistake in trusting a hospital run by the VA. (That’s a story for another day.) In too many ways to list here veterans have been/are being routinely let down by the government that promised to stand behind them, forvever.

What I wonder is why the data-theft story hasn’t been Page One, above-the-fold from the day it broke. Somebody has to be deliberately soft-pedaling it, in a major way.

Why hasn’t the local letters-to-the-editor page been full of outrage over something that actually matters -- the government’s betrayal of vets during an ongoing war, instead of the fate of a local amateur vocalist who is this season’s instant/disposable celebrity?

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