Government & Politics

After More Money and 'Fixes,' VA Gets Worse

Wait times are longer now than last year.

Paul Albaugh · Jun. 24, 2015

For veterans seeking care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, let’s just say that this year isn’t going to be any better than the last. Despite all of the promises from Barack Obama, Congress and unelected bureaucrats that the government would “fix” the problems with the VA, little to nothing has been done. Unless you count making things worse.

About a year ago, news broke that veterans were dying while on secret VA waiting lists. Obama promised that his administration would fix the problems. We were told by incoming VA Secretary Robert McDonald that “he would fire over 1,000 VA employees over the wait time scandal.” Yet the fixes and firings didn’t happen. Nope, we were lied to again.

Perhaps the VA simply needed more money to operate more efficiently. In keeping with the status quo for every government agency that is failing, Congress pumped $16.3 billion into the VA to give it some help — that after its budget nearly tripled between 2000 and 2012. How’d that all work out? Fast forward to today, and the results are pathetic. In fact it’s worse now than it was a year ago.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing a new crisis. The number of veterans waiting one month or more for care is actually 50% higher than it was during last year’s problems, and the VA is also facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall.

To address this continuing crisis the VA is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and “significant moves” to close the budget shortfall. It’s also considering rationing Hepatitis C treatments, specifically for those who are in more advanced stages of illness or advanced dementia. How’s that for veteran care?

On a positive note, doctors and nurses within the VA have handled 2.7 million more appointments than in any previous year and sent an additional 900,000 patients to see physicians in the private sector. With these numbers, what’s the problem?

The VA has seen a massive increase in veterans seeking care, primarily aging Vietnam vets and those who have returned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. With this increase in demand for care comes a need for more doctors and nurses to provide the treatment that our veterans deserve. But according to many experts there is a shortage of doctors and nurses. In addition there has also been an increase in the cost of drugs and medication, and the largest driver of costs has been from patients seeking medical attention from physicians in the private sector. Thanks, ObamaCare.

“Something has to give,” conceded VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson. “We can’t leave this as the status quo. We are not meeting the needs of veterans, and veterans are signaling that to us by coming in for additional care, and we can’t deliver as timely as we want to.”

Why not? The VA has more money and more people, yet we’re supposed to believe that still more money is the answer? No doubt most Americans would rather see their tax dollars go to fund the VA’s operations than to most any other federal project. But the problem isn’t the lack of money, it’s the ineptitude of bureaucrats who don’t know how to properly manage the money or personnel that they have.

As Mark Alexander suggested last year, perhaps Congress should consider another piece of legislation to improve services at the VA: Make the commander in chief and all of his cabinet level appointees get in line for VA medical services instead of the VIP medical treatment they now receive. Let’s add Congress to that list as well. Can anyone imagine our elected officials and their staff having to wait like veterans do for treatment? We doubt that this will happen anytime soon, but if it could, we bet there would likely be some significant, real changes to the VA.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare was passed to give all Americans access to medical care and is funded by taxpayers. Yet it is unaffordable, unsustainable and un-American. It’s certain that within a few years, as ObamaCare grows and takes deeper root, all Americans will be on waiting lists to receive care. There will be calls for reform, to pump more money and people into it. But these “reforms” won’t fix the problem, either — because the problem is federal bureaucrats who insist on spending more of our dollars to increase their power and take away freedom from individuals. Need proof? Just look at the VA.

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