The VA as microcosm.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility - Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility – Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 4/11/16

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Two years ago this month, CNN broke the story that as many as 40 military veterans had died while waiting months or even years for health care at the Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix, Arizona. The details were shocking. They revealed a cynical, callous, bureaucratic disregard for the very individuals the Veterans Administration is supposed to help.

Among the outrages was the fact that Phoenix VA employees had doctored records in such a way as to make it appear that they were meeting VA goals for timely patient care. Those goals had bonuses attached to them, which the employees happily accepted.

As the story developed, we learned that it wasn’t just Phoenix. Similar horror stories bubbled up out of VA facilities all over the country.

The revelations were ill-timed for the Obama administration. The 2014 mid-term elections were looming and the administration feared losing control of the Senate – a fear that turned out be justified. Obama, therefore, issued strongly worded statements promising to get to the bottom of the problem and to hold malfeasant personnel accountable, etc., etc.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30 – figuratively falling on his sword.

Multiple Congressional hearings were held. An FBI investigation was launched. Legislation was passed that threw $16 billion at the problem.

But precious few people were actually fired. Among the spared were those who falsified records and yet received bonuses.

So two years later, how are things at the VA?

To the surprise of very few, not so good.

Wait times are little improved. Veterans are still dying waiting for care. VA employees who dare tell the truth about what is going on are still subject to harassment.

Democrats in Congress continue to call for more funding for the VA – never mentioning that it already has the second largest budget of all cabinet-level departments and more employees than the Marine Corps.

That no one is really surprised that the VA is still sclerotic, incompetent and cynically uncaring about those it is intended to serve is the very essence of this story. The VA is nothing less than a microcosm of the entire federal government – a top-down Leviathan that is callously and willfully unaccountable to those it is charged with serving and to the taxpayers that pay for it.

The VA is also Exhibit A for those of us who caution against any form of federally administered national health care.

The fact that a federal department can be so costly and yet so screwed up that it defies all efforts at reform is just one of many reasons that voters are unusually angry this election cycle.

The federal government – in the hands of an unaccountable bureaucracy and overseen by an ineffectual Congress – can’t get anything right and Americans have had it.

Is it then any wonder that candidates perceived as Beltway outsiders – such as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – are the only presidential candidates generating any excitement this year?

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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3 Responses

  1. HILDA says:

    And there’s no telling how many civilians have died needlessly before President Obama got rid of “Pre-existing conditions”,including my husband who died from Diabetes. Thank God for our compassionate president!!!!

  2. Sherry Bobbitt says:

    Paul, it is no surprise to me becausethe North Texas VA hospital in Dallas is no better. My husband, a veteran in the US Navy, passed away Feb 8, 2016, two months ago tomorrow. We fought for good care for him for two years plus. His death certificate says he died of congestive heart failure. Doctors here in Tyler said it was an obstructed small intestine. They removed 1 1/2 ft of dead intestine, which they said could have been there for a year. Had they not removed it when they did, it would have ruptured the next day & he would have died sooner. The VA records state “weight loss; might be cancer” but they never did any tests, etc to find out if it was, in fact, cancer. A little over 2 years ago my husband, a tetraphalegic, weighed about 165-170. A year ago he was down around 135. Within 2015, he went from 135 to 123, to 112, & when he was admitted to Trinity Mother France’s, Jan. 15, 2016, he weighed 105. A week later he was down to 93.7 lbs. Doctors said he was undernourished (due to not being able to eat or when he did, it made him sick AND he was in severe pain all the time), all of this causing stress on his heart. I could go on and on with other stories regarding things we encountered.
    Thank you for your interest in our veterans and their care.

  3. C M Solomon says:

    Since our “compassionate president” got rid of pre-existing conditions, I have decided to wait until I get real sick to buy an expensive health care policy. Why pay for a “Cadillac plan” that offers the absolute best health care for a deadly disease since I’m healthy now. I can save a lot of money, now, and buy the best of plans when I get real sick. Thank you, Mr. Obama. I’m sure the greedy health insurance companies appreciate your giving us individuals a way to keep them from being unfair to their sick customers that want to buy a policy for the first time or upgrade to a better plan.

    Now, if we could only get Mr. Obama to require the insurance companies to give us non-discriminatory health coverage, that is, health coverage that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of ability to pay (our income). I would rather spend my money on food, shelter, clothing, adult beverages, the lottery, smart phones, TV and media equipment, entertainment, transportation, and vacations. Just think how robust the economy would be if we didn’t have to spend our money on health insurance that, by the way, only benefits us when we are sick.

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