May 30, 2014

We’re All in the VA Now

Shinseki was ousted today, but the problem isn’t him – it’s systemic bureaucratic corruption.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday morning after a “serious conversation” with Barack Obama about the systemic problems with VA health facilities. Wednesday’s report by the VA Inspector General detailed a long-standing pattern of neglect of veterans at the Phoenix VA and confirmed that bureaucrats deliberately denied much needed medical care to veterans in order to make themselves look good on the books. The report was evidently too much for Shinseki to survive.

Shinseki apologized in a speech earlier Friday for “irresponsible and unacceptable” behavior at 46 VA facilities. “I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities,” he said. “This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do.” He went on to promise that he will “use all authority at our disposal and enforce accountability.” But then came his meeting with Obama and his “resignation.”

Shinseki’s underlings told a congressional panel that they are working hard to fix the problem. But neither VA Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs Joan Mooney nor Dr. Thomas Lynch, the assistant deputy undersecretary for health, could answer simple questions about just how things got so bad for veterans under the department’s care.

There can be no excuse for the scandal that has unfolded in the VA short of pure incompetence and a complete lack of concern for American veterans. But that’s systemic bureaucratic malfeasance for you.

Nancy Pelosi’s “solution” is as predictable as it is foolish: Fixing the problems at the VA “is going to take more money.” Yet the VA budget has increased 78% since Shinseki took the job in 2009, and the department has received $235 billion in extra funding over the 2008 budget baseline. Equally troubling is the fact that the VA’s health care structure is a demonstration of the type of health care that the Democrats have in mind for the country as a whole via ObamaCare. It is, in essence, a single-payer system in which veterans have no choice for alternative treatment other than the VA itself, leaving them at the mercy of the department’s stifling and, as it turns out, life-threatening bureaucracy. Yet no one in that department seems overly concerned about its failure to deliver.

Worse still, the White House and top congressional leadership, House Speaker John Boehner included, don’t seem all that rattled about the issue. The Obama administration has repeatedly skated over the issue. While many Democrats in tough re-election fights have called for action, Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, the House’s top Democrats, blame Republicans and circled the wagons around Shinseki and his top deputies. Pelosi said, “It’s easy to call for somebody at the top to go. This as a solution is an answer that remains to be seen.” Well, it certainly helped the country to kick her out of the speaker’s box.

Eric Shinseki probably didn’t deserve to keep his job, and some bureaucrats should probably be brought up on charges for criminal negligence that led to the deaths of numerous veterans whose only fault was that they counted on the U.S. government to take care of them. But removing a few bureaucrats won’t solve the basic problem: Big Government doesn’t do anything well, as we’re seeing clearly with the VA and ObamaCare.

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