Roy Exum: Let’s Euthanize The VA

Thursday, February 25, 2016 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There is a story coming out of the Wilkes-Barre (PA) Veteran’s Administration Hospital this week where police were called when a surgical scrub nurse seemed addled, struggled to sign on a computer and was unsteady on his feet. When police asked him if he knew why they had been called, the nurse allegedly replied, “I guess it had something to do with me being drunk.”

It seems not a day goes by that the Veteran’s Administration isn’t shamed or blamed so why don’t we euthanize the program, give our veterans and their families cost-free health insurance and allow our heroes to go to any hospital or doctor’s office they choose. Read this right: In 2009 the budget for the VA was $87.6 billion (with a ‘b’). Five years later – in 2014 – it was almost double: $152.7 billion (with a ‘b’).

As a matter of fact, 2014 was when it was discovered 40 Armed Forces’ veterans died in Phoenix because the wait times were too long. It was – and still is -- scandalous, so bad that the Secretary of the VA resigned. Eric Shinseki expressed outrage and frustrating as he did so, saying the blatant wait times weren’t nearly as bad as the lack of integrity at certain facilities.

“That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible, and unacceptable to me,” he said publicly. “I said when this situation began weeks to months ago that I thought the problem was limited and isolated because I believed that. I no longer believe it. It is systemic. I was too trusting of some and I accepted as accurate reports that I now know to have been misleading with regard to patient wait times.”

A fallout was that an urgent investigation was ordered for 111 notorious facilities, including the VA Out-Patient Care complex in Chattanooga, and while it is anything but funny, we are still waiting for the results. It has been whispered that of 77 centers, 52 have been found negligent but nobody knows anything, which is irresponsible, indefensible and unacceptable to America’s taxpayers.

Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-R) just wrote a scathing report on the VA and his view is far better than mine. A combat veteran with 21 years of service, the Congressman serves on the Armed Services Committee and is the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the Veterans Affairs Committee.

His take? “Just last week, a report on the Colorado Springs Community Based Outpatient Clinic, or CBOC, revealed lengthy wait times and a failure to add veterans to the Choice List. In fact, 64 percent of veterans at CBOC did not receive timely care in the audiology, mental health, neurology, optometry, orthopedic, and primary care services.

“Further, the inspector general also determined VA staff failed to add veterans to the Veterans Choice List allowing them to seek timely care from a private physician as required by law. If past actions are at all indicative, under the current administration, it's not likely that anyone will be held accountable,” he wrote in a guest editorial.

“Last year, the VA gave out hundreds of millions in cash bonuses and, if anything, these bonuses have played a key role in fostering the culture of corruption that has fed this scandal-plagued agency. For example, cash bonuses were given to VA's Veterans Health Administration personnel for reducing the time that a veteran has to wait to receive care at the VHA. Unfortunately, what really happened was a systemic manipulation of patient wait times across the VHA where two sets of books were kept, an ‘official’ set to ensure employee bonuses and ‘secret’ set with the real schedules,” Coffman wrote.

If that doesn’t make you mad, this will. Coffman revealed that when Secretary McDonald was asked if he would support legislation that, in cases of fraud, would call for bonus money to be returned, the top VA guy said he would not support that. Anybody smell smoke? “Corruption at VA is not the only problem; bureaucratic incompetence is the norm for the agency.”

The Colorado lawmaker, who is furious that incompetency is forcing more money from the taxpayers yet veterans are suffering worse, said, “There is no better symbol of VA's bureaucratic incompetence than the mismanagement of hospital construction projects.

“In 2013, a Government Accountability Office investigation found that the VA had four hospitals under construction, including the Aurora (Colorado) hospital, averaging $336 million over budget and 35 months behind schedule. Cost overruns for the four hospitals are now estimated at $2 billion (with a ‘b’ – just in overruns!)”

“Naturally, no one has been held accountable for the cost overruns and the construction delays at these major hospital projects. To add insult to injury, Glenn Haagstrom, who oversaw the construction of all four hospitals, received $64,000 in bonus money, some of which was awarded after the GAO report was published.”

In summary, our VA is horribly out of control. With all the generals and genius in our military, America is being robbed at the expense of our soldiers, where the crime includes abuse.  Let’s put this catastrophe to sleep and pull the plug. Just like the Pennsylvania scrub nurse, we need to sober up and head in a different direction.

royexum@aol.com

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