They served our country in foreign wars on land, air and sea, some in the Pacific and European theatres of World War II, others in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have returned home to the Island, some many long years ago, others more recently, to live as civilians with jobs and families, their war experiences quietly and indelibly stamped onto their lives. Other Americans thank them for their service and the United States government rewards them with some benefits, including health care.

But due to a bureaucratic impasse that no one seems able to break, the veterans of the Vineyard have been denied that benefit, and for the past two years have been forced to travel off the Vineyard to receive VA-subsidized primary care.

The story has been told and retold and all acknowledge the problem: a longstanding contract between the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and the Veterans Administration that allowed for primary care for veterans on the Island expired more than five years ago. No one realized it until Island vets suddenly began receiving bills for medical care. The Gazette reported the problem. And state and federal lawmakers, hospital leaders and veterans agents have been engaged in an on-again, off-again scramble to put a new contract in place.

But as of last week there was still no contract and Vineyard veterans were still forced to travel to Hyannis or Providence, R.I. for care. A short-term plan that allows Island vets to obtain prescription medicines on-Island has been put in place.

That is good but it’s not good enough. Islanders should get on their telephones and computers and let Cong. Bill Keating, Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, Cape and Islands Rep. Timothy Madden and Sen. Dan Wolf know that this is a matter of top priority that demands their immediate and undivided attention.

This unacceptable show of disrespect for Vineyard veterans has gone on far too long.