An internal training guide at the Department of Veterans Affairs compares vets to Oscar the Grouch, the famous Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can. The slide show is titled, “What to Say to Oscar the Grouch - Dealing with Veterans During Town Hall Claims Clinics.”
The 18-page slide show on how to help veterans with their claims, presented to VA employees Friday and obtained by The Inquirer, also says veterans might be demanding and unrealistic and tells VA staffers to apologize for the "perception" of the agency.
The spokeswoman from the Philadelphia VA benefits office - which will host the town halls Wednesday at noon and 6:30 p.m. - said in a statement that the agency regretted any misunderstanding caused by the slide show.
"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."
She said the guide appeared to be an old internal document from which employees at the Philadelphia office pulled information ahead of Friday's training. Prugsawan said she was unsure if the original slide show comparing veterans to Oscar had been created locally or by the national VA office and sent to regional centers.
On America’s Newsroom, syndicated radio host Lars Larson called the reference “insulting and demeaning." He said vets have a right to expect that the government will hold up their end of the bargain after they put their lives on the line for this country.
“If they want a cartoon character to use to educate the folks in the VA about the proper treatment of veterans, maybe they should use Superman because […] these are the heroes of this country," Larson said.
Leslie Marshall, syndicated radio talk show host, disagreed with Larson's argument that this points to the bigger picture of the Obama administration holding America’s vets in low regard.
“I do understand what [the VA is] trying to get across,” she said, adding, “but they do it in a very distasteful manner.”