Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Jackson (Tennessee) Sun on VA deal:
We were mildly encouraged Monday about the "deal" reached to address some of the problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. But we remain frustrated about how we got to this point and suspicious about whether this will bring lasting improvements to a system that has been plagued with problems for decades.
From the outset, we bristle at the fact that politicians have to reach a "deal" to address the health care of our nation's veterans. It makes us sick that something so important must be politicized with talk of "competing plans" from the House, Senate or others.
We realize this is probably wishful thinking in our politicized, us-against-them world, but how about people from all sides meet and come up with a plan that simply addresses the needs of the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country?
The arrangement announced Monday by Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, would authorize about $17 billion to be spent to help avoid the long waits veterans have been tortured with for health care. The money would be used to hire more doctors and nurses, open new clinics and more.
It would be offset with about $5 billion in cuts to the VA.
A key facet of the plan — especially in rural West Tennessee and other areas like it — is that the plan would allow qualified veterans who live at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic to be treated by private doctors, with the VA paying the bill.
We're hopeful that this plan addresses the issue of long waits. But deeper problems exist with the VA and have for years. Congress cannot afford to sit back and pat itself on the back after it approves this "deal." It must move forward and demand further investigation, overhaul and accountability measures within the VA.
Our veterans deserve nothing less.
The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on immigrant children:
Has Gov. Bill Haslam created a straw man as his target for alarm over immigrant children?
The governor on Friday wrote the White House to express concern about the number of undocumented and unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in Tennessee under a federal program.
According to The Tennessean in Nashville, the letter said the Obama administration should have notified the state of the 760 minors placed in Tennessee so far this year. He listed eight questions about the process for caring for children awaiting immigration court hearings.
But immigration advocates said they are puzzled because the process has been going on for years without significant problems, business as usual.
"They've got somewhere to go," a spokesman for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said. "They're not getting dropped off. They're getting placed with their mom, dad, aunt or uncle."
The refugee coordinator for the Tennessee Office for Refugees, a Catholic charity, said, "Unaccompanied minors have been coming into the U.S. for years and years and years."
What has changed is the volume. For years, about 7,000 such children came into this country each year, but the number spiked in 2011 and again this year, with 30,000 children arriving in the first six months of 2014.
The extent of this surge in Tennessee is not yet determined. "It's my understanding the numbers are up," a spokesman for the governor said.
The Office for Refugees coordinator expressed skepticism that Tennessee has seen a significant increase.
At any rate, the situation should not be a political football. The welfare of little kids is no fit tool for scoring partisan points.