As reported by The Associated Press in Monday's Post and Courier, a German shepherd named Lexy in Fort Bragg, N.C., is helping soldiers who have served in combat overcome the lingering ill effects of post-traumatic stress.

Unfortunately, however, our species' assistance to many of those who have served our armed forces appears to be disgracefully lacking.

Over the last few months, stunning revelations have emerged about rampant deficiencies in care at some veterans hospitals. Reports about recurring shortcomings at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., are especially troubling.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general, told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on Thursday that he's "mad as hell" about the apparent problems and has already taken action to fire some senior VA officials whom he has held responsible.

Indeed, lots of Americans, including federal lawmakers, are justifiably angry about breakdowns in the VA health system. And though President Obama, as of Thursday, was still resisting calls to relieve Secretary Shinseki of his VA duties, he has assigned a top White House aide to oversee his review of what's going wrong.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, like Mr. Shinseki a Vietnam vet, has rightly branded the failures at those health care facilities as "outrageous."

For instance, a "secret waiting list" in Phoenix aimed to hide the truth about the extended gaps between needing and receiving care. According to whistleblowers, at least 40 patients died during protracted delays in getting treatment.

Similar alarms have been sounded about other VA hospitals.

There have even been some lengthy delays at Charleston's Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, which has had a generally admirable reputation. This newspaper reported last month that a VA review of colon cancer cases there "revealed one patient may have died more than three years ago because of a delay in care."

As a captured fighter pilot who spent nearly 5½ years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, Sen. John McCain knows better than most the importance of veterans' medical care. The Arizona Republican also knows about severe cases of neglect at that Phoenix hospital - and at other VA medical facilities.

Sen. McCain rightly warned during Thursday's hearing that this awful situation has created a "crisis of confidence" in VA health care, aptly adding, "We should all be ashamed."

"Ashamed" is the correct term. The U.S. government pledges to provide quality health care to military members past and present. Breaking that promise is a fundamental breach of trust.

Breaking that promise also undermines America's ability to recruit men and women for our armed forces - and unfairly sullies the reputations of the good people doing their best for our veterans at VA medical facilities.

As for Secretary Shinseki, he needs to do more than get mad and dump a few high-ranking VA staffers.

He needs to fix what's broken in VA health care - immediately - or follow his dismissed senior staffers out the door.

And if any Cabinet secretary, including Mr. Shinseki, really needs a White House aide to keep an eye on him, that suggests he's the wrong person for that job.