Nothing can make Americans more incensed than the mistreatment of active or retired duty personnel. However, it does happen, and little is done to correct it, except when a story reaches the front page — perhaps.

While many physicians serve honorably, gaps remain. Go to any VA, and you can find backlogged medical charts, laboratory reports and imaging studies, months overdue. You'll find vets waiting hours to see physicians — many not U.S.-trained.

This is a shameful debacle involving a system so poorly accountable that it leaves few choices for those considering military service. You can participate knowing you may get very poor treatment while on active duty, and if hurt, you'll have to deal with the bureaucracy of the VA care.

Despite the political smokescreen, it is not the best care. When enlistment stops, changes might occur. For many, that choice may seem un-American. But it is far more egregious to imply a first-class run operation, with life-long medical coverage — and then provide inferior care once enlisted.

The armed forces and many elected representatives have let Americans down, not the other way around. Don't forget, though, we've done far too little to hold them accountable. — Brian C. Tryon, M.D., Medford

VA's Voluntary Service is the largest volunteer program in the federal government. Men and women from their teens to their 90s become partners on the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care team.

Some bring special skills and knowledge, others have a desire to explore and learn. Many come with a gift for working directly with patients, while others bring dependability behind the scenes.

At the VA in White City, we have 508 regularly scheduled volunteers. Fiscal year 2007 volunteers worked nearly 70,000 hours, equaling 33.5 full time-equivalent employees, saving the VA approximately $1.3 million.

VA volunteers perform a variety of duties at health-care facilities, national cemeteries, regional offices and regional counsel offices. Their roles range from escorting patients and administrative duties to creative activities such as teaching arts, music and crafts. As VA has expanded its care of patients into the community, volunteers now assist VA staff in hospice programs, outpatient clinics, home-based primary care and outreach centers.

Join us in celebrating National Volunteer Week, April 28 to May 2 by calling our Voluntary Service Office at 826-2111 Ext. 3585 to schedule a visit and learn how to become a volunteer at the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics. — Max McIntosh, Ph.D., MBA, director

May 6-12 is National Nurses Week. Southern Oregon nurses from Josephine and Jackson County will hold their annual celebration at the Red Lion on May 7. The deadline to attend this gathering is May 1. For further information please contact Victoria Brown, chair, Nurses Day Celebration Committee: 774-8039. All nurses, including students, are welcome to join in this celebration.

Nurses are recognized in each state by their Board of Nursing through licensure either as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Registered Nurses (RN), Advanced Practice Nurses (APRN) also known as Nurse Practitioners (NP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) and Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS).

Nurses are advocates for health in many settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, community settings and schools of nursing. They provide skilled care for the infirm and also health care counseling and prevention education.

They are educators of nurses, patients and families. They can also be found in the political arena developing health policy and conferring with legislative representatives.

Rising health-care costs, decreased funding and reimbursement plus a lack of available nurses are challenging the health-care system and will require creativity and collaboration to address future needs. Nurses will be there with knowledge and innovation. — Jane Sawall, Medford

If you want to vote in the Oregon primary, please be aware that Tuesday, April 29, is the deadline to register.

The race for the Democratic nomination is tight, and this nation could really use your help. Barack Obama is America's opportunity to become, truly, America again!

Enough of the politics of fear and deception! Obama alone, among those who stand to become America's next president, has the integrity, presence, intelligence and wherewithal to lead this nation where it so clearly needs to be led.

Please take the time to consider the importance of this vote. History is watching closely! — Randy Dolinger, Ashland

Two outstanding Democrats are competing to run for U.S. Senate. One of them, Jeff Merkley, has a successful track record in the Oregon Legislature. Jeff is clearly best prepared to represent us in Congress.

Jeff knows Washington. As a presidential fellow, he worked on issues related to military technology, arms treaties and NATO. Later he moved to the Congressional Budget Office where his responsibilities included nuclear policy analysis.

Since returning to his home state, Jeff has served five terms in the state Legislature. In 2006 he was elected speaker and led one of the most successful legislative sessions in Oregon history.

Jeff's opponent, Steve Novick, is a brilliant advocate for progressive causes but he has never held an elected office. Steve is not ready for the U.S. Senate.

Speaker Jeff Merkley can beat Gordon Smith in November and help lead our nation toward recovery. Let's send Mr. Merkley to Washington. — Pam Marsh and Diarmuid McGuire, Ashland

Every two years, I relish my opportunity to flex my democratic muscle. This year, although I am registered as a member of the Democratic Party, I am voting for the Independent Party candidate, John Frohnmayer.

In a true democracy, the voter shouldn't be curtailed by party lines and sotto-party loyalty. As a university student and mother, Frohnmayer's stance on liberal education appeals to me.

He's committed to more than throwing money at higher education. Frohnmayer proposes federal block grants, so each state is funded without having to fit a federal mold. We must educate our children to be creative thinkers because creativity is the currency of the 21st century. Everyone knows early training in the arts provides both the discipline and brain development needed to foster better students and better citizens.

John Frohnmayer's stance on curbing war spending and directing war-machine funding to education shows his dedication to America's future. — Rebekah Mobley-Kasner, Wolf Creek

This incredible furor over abortion is much ado about nothing. It all hinges upon whether you believe a fertilized ovum is an actual human being. (The key word here is "believe," since that is an assumption, not a fact.)

If, as most people believe, (including the Supreme Court) that it is not, then we are simply talking about a medical procedure.

If pro-lifers truly believe that a two-week-old fetus is a human being, then its miscarriage would constitute a "death in the family" and should be treated as such. If not, why not?

"Consistency, thou art a jewel." — Floyd Barton, Medford

They say a 500-year-old tree lying on the ground rotting with a million other dead trees in Oregon is good for the salmon spawning beds.

If rotten wood water running out of the mountains into the creeks and lakes is good for fish, then Oregon bottled rotting wood water should be good for humans, too. But then rotten wood water could put humans on the endangered species list like the salmon are.

I really don't know anything anymore since I am not an environmentalist scientist. — Tom Rolie, Medford

Primary ballots will arrive soon and the decision will be made about who are to be the candidates for the U.S. Senate.

In these time we need someone who can hit the ground running the day he arrives in Washington. Jeff Merkley is that man.

Most of us have heard about his sterling performance in the Oregon House of Representatives but perhaps not so many are aware of his former quite varied experience in Washington — stints ranging from working in the Pentagon to the Congressional Budget Office. Beginning in his high school days Jeff has spent time working overseas — in Ghana, Mexico and in Italy. Thus he has a background that will enable him to quickly understand and make good decisions on the complex issues, at home and abroad, that face us today. Elect Jeff Merkley to the U.S. Senate. — Jean E. Maack, Medford

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