June 13, 2014

The VA Morass Deepens

Each passing day reveals more about the rotten VA.

With each passing day and new revelation, the Veterans Affairs secret wait-list scandal shows a rotten and decaying system where corruption was rampant and accountability nonexistent. Inspection visits to under-performing facilities were “paused” for two years, bonuses were tossed out like candy at a parade, to the tune of over $100 million in a three-year period, and whistleblowers were threatened with firing – or worse.

All this has led to the opening of an FBI investigation, meaning it’s quite possible that some hospital administrators could fall on the sword for their role in poor patient care and secret “death panel” waiting lists. The Phoenix FBI office is taking the lead, as the story originated from that facility, but this is a nationwide problem – the VA’s own inspector general is looking at a total of 69 facilities, and that number is likely to grow.

Congress is also moving with unusual speed – particularly in light of an oncoming election – to address some aspects of the problem. Bills are on the fast track in both the Senate and House, and they are considered to be similar enough that no more than a perfunctory conference session would be needed. Items likely to make the cut are a prohibition on bonuses to VA executives through 2016, allowing the VA to shift $500 million in its budget to hire more medical staff, and allowing certain veterans who live far from VA facilities to seek out private providers on the VA’s tab. The VA would also be encouraged to contract with private medical facilities as needed to reduce wait times.

Still, if the VA system is the epitome of government-run health care – and it is – the clamor to eliminate ObamaCare should be deafening. The VA’s public relations and patient confidence holes are getting deeper and wider with each revelation, and the millions of veterans and their families who depend on the VA for their health don’t just deserve better care – they deserve answers as to what went wrong and why.

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