(Freedom.news) During his State of the Union Address, President Obama took a few moments to pat himself on the back for allegedly fixing the beleaguered Veterans Administration.
“We’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care,” said the president. “We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need.”
The problem with that claim is that it isn’t accurate.
To be sure, there are plenty of veterans who are receiving care – adequate care – at VA hospitals around the country. Many of them like the care they are being given and have no complaints.
But far too many vets are still short-served by a system that remains overly bureaucratic and habitually under-performing.
— The latest scandal began in 2014 after CNN reported that some veterans who were put on waiting lists were dying before they could actually be seen for their ailments. Worse, we found out that the waiting lists were bogus – sort of “off the books,” if you will. VA employees hid a massive backlog within their internal computer systems, all the while paying themselves bonuses based on high performance levels that were false.
Come to find out, this practice was not isolated at a few VA hospitals and clinics; rather, it was widespread, involving some 100 facilities.
— Despite this rather large scandal just three VA employees were fired and, as the Washington Examiner has reported, the Obama [In]Justice Department has opted not to pursue criminal charges in 46 of 55 known cases of intentional deceit.
— Veterans who were promised medical care and benefits as part of their service continue to face delays of both, thanks to that same, old stodgy bureaucratic system.
What should actually happen here? The Washington Examiner notes the solution – and the problem with implementing that solution:
Everyone involved in these scandals should be fired, along with every senior manager in the department. But, this being a federal bureaucracy, staff are protected by a union redoubt, and Big Labor’s leaders have fought to thwart legislation to make such firings possible.
Reforming Democrat-leaning union rules is not going to happen on Obama’s watch; there is too little time remaining in his final term and he wouldn’t sign reform legislation anyway.
But “reform” would not change the business model, if you will, of the VA – or the bureaucratic culture. The VA would remain a government operation subject to the whims and desires of congresses and presidents who have put the nation’s largest hospital system in an impossible position.
Congress and presidents decide, for instance, the level of funding for the VA, and to be honest, the VA’s funding level has hardly ever matched the level of care and services it is required to provide.
In addition the VA is often given marching orders, if you will, that it simply does not have the human or financial resources to carry out. Compensating themselves with bonuses after hiding a massive patient backlog was, of course, criminal, but the fact that the backlog had to be hidden in the first place is instructive because it laid bare this resource-capability deficit that has been a chronic problem at VA. And no amount of “reform” legislation is going to change that.
The better solution, then, is for the next president to work with Congress on a plan that would continue to provide the promised care and benefits to the surge of veterans created after a decade of war in two theaters using the private sector. This kind of solution would not only preserve the government’s promise to its service personnel, it would save the taxpayers billions of dollars in infrastructure and personnel costs each year.
Existing VA facilities could be sold off to private enterprises, and existing VA personnel largely retained. The goal is to shift to a more cost-effective model of care that relies on performance rather than union protection. Also, this market-based model would be free of the stifling bureaucracy and political influence that has hampered the VA for decades.
Our veterans volunteer to fight wars that politicians and presidents don’t always think through. The very least they deserve is for Uncle Sam to deliver on his promise to take care of them on the back end. The VA is not only unable to fulfill this government promise, it will never be able to fulfill it because it has essentially been set up to fail. Until the business model changes, the VA – and our government – will continue to fail our vets.
And while we’re at it, repealing Obamacare and “replacing it” with the free market would not just improve veteran health care, but health care for all.
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