A Department of Veterans Affairs tweet is drawing attention to threats to the world’s oceans spurred a Twitter tidal wave of criticism from veterans and others who felt the VA has no business talking about anything other than the ongoing controversy with patient wait times.
A VA spokesman on Tuesday said the tweet originated with the State Department but distributed through Twitter pages of VA and other federal agencies to spread the message.
“Our ocean is under threat. Join people all over the world and make a difference,” the tweet read, followed by #OurOcean2014 and a link to a State Department page. The tweet preceded Tuesday’s announcement by the White House of new steps being taken by the U.S. to protect the oceans.
But with the VA reeling from confirmed reports that 18 veterans died waiting for an appointment at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 150 veterans and their supporters expressed online outrage at the VA addressing any other crisis.
“Why don't you work on not killing vets 1st,” one reader replied, while another wrote “Instead of worrying about fish, could you guys hurry up w/ my paperwork so I can go to the doctor? Thanks.”
The oceans tweet was sent out as a “Thunderclap,” that is a single message originating at one source – in this case the State Department – but sent out through other Twitter accounts whose owners or managers have authorized the broadcast.
Thunderclap is the online platform that arranges the message burst. It is identified in the abbreviated Twitter link as thndr.it, though it leads to the State Department’s page.
“We amplified the voice of a government partner as others have done for us. Our most recent Thunderclap was Veterans Day,” VA Deputy Director for Media Relations Linda West said.
For Veterans Day, the VA’s tweet – also sent out via Twitter accounts of other federal agencies – read: “This Veterans Day, and every day, my thoughts, thanks and gratitude are with our nation's Veterans.” The VA message also included #HonoringVets and a link http://thndr.it/1fkkbiU.
The VA’s Office of the inspector General is currently investigating allegations of patient wait-times manipulation at 70 VA hospitals and clinics around the country. Following confirmation last month by VA investigators that 18 veterans on a secret list of people awaiting an appointment at Phoenix VA hospital died, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned.
Since then Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has been traveling around the country to VA hospitals and clinics, working to re-establish the VA’s credibility with veterans, veterans’ service organizations and Congress.