In the midst of major scandal in which the Department of Veterans Affairs delayed veterans' requests for health care for several years and then systematically worked to cover its tracks, the VA has found time to write a blog post urging readers to wear sunscreen during the hot summer months.
"It's getting easier to go outside and enjoy the sunshine," the top blog on the VA website declares. "Why? Because researchers have learned so much about the importance of regularly protecting our skin."
The VA scandal has led to numerous hearings in both the House and Senate, and forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to leave his post. The Senate is moving toward his replacement, former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald, who promised a range of actions to fix the broken VA in his first 90 days in office.
"Now, more and more people opt for sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher," the oblivious VA blog reads. "What's more, researchers are telling us that sun exposure may be linked to eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles and other skin issues."
House and Senate are currently trying to negotiate a bill to reform the VA and ensure the department is able to more effectively get veterans medical treatment. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has said his department needs $17.6 billion to deal with the crisis.
But on Wednesday, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Congress is likely to deliver less than that. "I think we can lower that amount of money, because some of that request is not going to be spent this year or even next year," he said.
"The skin is the body's largest organ, so it just makes sense to take simple steps to protect it," the VA wrote. "Use sunscreen regularly and reapply often; wear hats, lightweight clothing and sunglasses for coverage; and opt for moving into the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the ultraviolet rays are strongest."
The final bill is also expected to include language making it easier to fire VA officials to tried to cover up the long wait times veterans faced for healthcare. Earlier this month, a key veterans group called on Congress to include the tougher House-passed language that allows for the immediate dismissal of officials for poor performance.
Unperturbed by that possibility, the VA wrote Wednesday: "[A]ccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most preventable cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds."
The chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), has also proposed legislation allowing the VA to take back bonuses to VA officials where are later found to have performed poorly on the job. Under the VA's current system, all senior officials at the VA have received good ratings, and nearly 80 percent of them have received bonuses, despite the widespread failures at the department.
"When planning your outdoor activities, decide how much sun protection you need by checking the Environmental Protection Agency's UV index," the VA wrote. "You can help yourself by applying sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before going outside, and then every hour or two after that."
One of the comments underneath the VA's blog post reads, "So does this mean the VA will give a 100% disabled vet some lotion?"