by Robert Carbery
The crippled and corrupted Department of Veterans Affairs is the ultimate evidence of why government-run healthcare will never work.
The Republican-held House of Representatives passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 on Tuesday 386 to 55. This is a breath of fresh air during these divisive days in that poor performing and incompetent government workers are going to be held accountable, assuming President Trump signs the bill into law.
The Senate passed the bill on June 6th and Trump is expected to sign it into law, tweeting last week that “we can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.” But the federal government is an immense, colossal, and slow-moving entity with teeming bureaucracies that care little for the taxpayers funding their very existence, instead doing everything they can to protect their own.
Although shocking but not surprising, three years after 35 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix, nothing has really changed. This facility was ground zero for the VA scandal that led to demands for reforms nationwide that ultimately resulted in nothing. One would think if improvement were to occur anywhere, it would be there, right?
The facility in Arizona is still ranked one of the worst in the nation. Some 89,000 veterans seek care through the Phoenix VA, but a recent internal VA evaluation ranked it 1 out of 5 points. Budgets bloat but nothing actually changes. There is no incentive to be effective in any way in these kind of institutions. There is no profit motive. Which is why we should privatize veterans’ healthcare, but we are likely too far down the road of socialized medicine at this point to attempt that.
The passed bill has won bipartisan support and endorsements from veterans groups upset at the still long wait times at VA facilities nationwide. Trump is overseeing the fulfillment of another campaign promise as he constantly assured his supporters on the trail that he would improve healthcare for veterans and reform the VA once and for all. The Marco Rubio-proposed legislation would make it much easier to fire employees for cause, while also adding additional protections for whistleblowers, who are regularly silenced by their superiors. In addition, it also puts more power in the hands of VA Secretary David Shulkin.
Bureaucracy is a disease that can only be cured by removing the infected parts. The current system is far too lenient on employees. It is nearly impossible to be fired once entrenched in the federal workforce. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs cited a statement in support of the act detailing several cases in which the department was unable to discipline employees for such incidents as armed robbery, intoxication during surgery, and even failure to manage major construction projects.
There is still so much reform that needs to take place at the federal level. But at a minimum, we need to fix the VA for good. If you don’t have any accountability and you allow problems to persist, people will die. That is not hyperbole. That is reality.
The VA is not infected and ineffective due to a lack of a budget or lack of facilities. From 2009-2017, the VA’s budget has increased 89%. It is permitting misconduct from far too many employees who are not serving the most dedicated Americans who have served our country with honor only to be poorly served after an injury. Rarely do we witness truly bipartisan legislation this polarized day and age. More of these common sense acts should be enacted.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the legislation will improve care for veterans. “Now we’re getting the veterans the kind of response and the kind of accountability they earned and deserved,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a press conference just before the vote. It would be inspiring to see more of the fat trimmed from the federal government.
The swamp must be drained and we must start with the VA. Our veterans deserve so much better.
by Robert Carbery