The Veterans Administration has long been criticized for its inability to provide prompt quality care to veterans. And of course, there’s the recent news that various hospitals in the VA system, under criticism for the long wait times veterans face, have been resorting to an administrative trick to appear to be meeting the announced standard of no more than a 14-day waiting time.
Eric Shinseki, the current secretary of the VA, has struggled more than most secretaries to bring the VA bureaucracy into alignment with the mission of the department.
We find ourselves in agreement with John Donovan, in that, yes, every secretary has failed as secretary of the VA, but that this is a rather more egregious failure than most.
Me, I’d take the administrators involved in the false reporting, and if I couldn’t fire them direct, I would appoint them as “Special Assistants” with duty at Minot, North Dakota, no relocation assistance provided.
If I couldn’t collect them all in some place so uncomfortable they wouldn’t want to go, fine. A buddy made a good suggestion for “rubber rooming” them: A nice double-wide trailer in the back parking lot with fans and DRMO furniture, and rotary phones. And a 300 baud modem for internet access. And a nice sign that said, “Office of the Special Assistants.”
Then perhaps, I could get someone into position who actually gives a damn.
GEN Shinseki was already somewhat rather unpopular with the rank and file before he was appointed. Hanging on so as to not give the current administration bad press isn’t helping matters.
But we take two lessons from this latest debacle. First, any “free” medical system will always share these issues and abuses. One of the greatest frustrations dealing with the VA is always the massive amounts of paperwork. Indeed, my anecdotal experience has been that many veterans are satisfied with the actual clinical care they receive. The issue has been getting through the hoops to receive that care. But that paperwork is a result of the requirement to ensure that only entitled, eligible veterans are receiving treatment, and especially prioritize those with no other option for treatment. A major frustration for many veterans is the disconnect between their service branch and the VA over what consists of a disability, and reconciling the two, especially as many veterans disabilities don’t appear until well after the veteran has separated from the service. A major overhaul of that system is long overdue.
Secondly, this latest scandal, coupled with other scandals of federal civil service employees, such as Lois Lerner, and the recent revelations of an EPA employee who spent hours upon hours a day looking at porn at work show the critical need to overhaul the federal civil service.
The current protections federal employees have result from the elimination of the spoils system. While we aren’t quite ready to call for its return (which would only further see the weaponization of the bureaucracy against conservative citizenry), clearly the inability to summarily fire employees who engage in flagrant misconduct is a deep flaw in the federal employment system.