The VA's 'Amusement' Ride
The news coming from the Department of Veterans Affairs is not getting any better.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has riled the nation by callously comparing ailing veterans on waiting lists to park goers at Disney. “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?” McDonald wondered. “Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience? And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
As House Speaker Paul Ryan responded, “This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines.” And for reasons like the following: According to Fox News, “A newly released study hammered the Department of Veterans Affairs for spending a fraction of its budget on new doctors while devoting millions to lawyers and public affairs officials — as thousands of veterans were waiting for care. The study from OpentheBooks.com shows that between 2012 and 2015, just one in 11 new hires were ‘medical officers.’ The findings are fueling criticism that the VA’s problems amount to more than just resources.”
Of the 39,000 job positions added since 2012, only a fraction of them — 3,591 — were filled by medical officers. But the agency also added another 175 lawyers, raising its legal team to 1,060 members who collect $454 million in compensation annually. As nefarious and corrupt as this department is, it’s no wonder it needs so many lawyers.
In related news, a new Senate report could help explain why the situation isn’t getting any better. According to USA Today, a “probe by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee” into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, “found the inspector general’s office, which is charged with independently investigating VA complaints, discounted key evidence and witness testimony, needlessly narrowed its inquiry and has no standard for determining wrongdoing.” Moreover, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the investigating committee, calls the VA’s failures “systemic.” The VA is corrupt, but so is the inspector general. Who’s going to watch the watcher?