What was intended to be a staff joke ended in bad PR for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
An instructional slideshow presented to VA employees in Philadelphia depicted disgruntled veterans as Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch.
Despite the lighthearted intention, there’s nothing funny about the dysfunction in the VA system. Philly.com reports that the slideshow was intended to insruct employees how to handle unhappy veterans with “unrealistic expectations.”
“For a long time, there was a stereotype of Vietnam veterans, that they’re mentally unstable and violent, bitter, angry, resentful,” VA employee Christian DeJohn said. “I feel like this is perpetuating some of the worst stereotypes of veterans.”
Marisa Prugsawan, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia VA office, said the slideshow was not designed to compare veterans to Oscar the Grouch. She also noted that she’s not sure where the slideshow originated– if it was created locally or nationally.
“The training provided was not intended to equate veterans with this character,” spokeswoman Marisa Prugsawan said. “It was intended to remind our employees to conduct themselves as courteously and professionally as possible when dealing with veterans and their concerns.”
Although Prugsawan claims the comparison was not literal, it’s a telling depiction. Oscar the Grouch is infamously grumpy for absolutely no reason. In a way, this comparison implies that the VA is efficient, and veterans have no reason to be frustrated with it. For anyone paying attention, that is anything but the case. There’s nothing funny about veterans on unending waiting lists.
National spokesman for the VFW, Joe Davis, encompassed that sentiment.
“There is no time or place to make light of the current crisis that the VA is in,” Davis said. “And especially to insult the VA’s primary customer.”
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