Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Florent Groberg is asking the next leader of the Department of Veteran Affairs to listen to the people the office serves — and then fix it.
“Be open. It’s beyond a political role,” he told Yahoo News. “It’s life or death for many people. And I think that those who put on a uniform deserve that.”
The VA has been in turmoil for years, including the 2014 scandal over its faulty distribution of health care to veterans. President Trump initially picked Dr. David Shulkin to run the agency but fired him in March of this year.
Trump then chose his personal doctor, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to run the agency, but he withdrew his nomination in April after allegations of Jackson’s improper professional behavior. Trump has now turned to the acting secretary, Robert Wilkie, to be the nominee.
“For the next leader, I expect them to be motivated and truly understand what the reality on the ground is and to go out there and come up with a plan that’s going to save lives and make sure that we never make the same mistakes again,” Groberg said.
He said that although his experience with the VA during his service time wasn’t great, he’s been treated well since his time out.
“The VA is a massive organization,” Groberg said. “It’s a government organization — it will not be fixed overnight.”
He also said mental health should be a top priority for the military and that it should have conversations with veterans on the subject.
“I think that the military understands and is doing the best that they can,” Groberg said. “But it’s a monster. Because a lot of the times, people don’t want to self-admit that they have an issue and they’re hiding it.”
Groberg received his Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in combat, in 2015 for his actions in Afghanistan three years earlier. He spotted a suicide bomber and tackled him to the ground. The detonation killed four U.S. soldiers.
“I left my position, as I was the closest U.S. soldier to him and ran towards him,” Groberg recalled. “Yelled at him, hit him, grabbed him. And when I realized, as I’m grabbing him, he had a suicide vest, I just yelled ‘bomb!’ and threw him as far away as possible and as quickly as possible.”
Groberg received injuries in the explosion to his left calf muscle, had a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury. He had 33 surgeries and recovered at a medical center for three years. He is now retired from the Army and works as chief of staff for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
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