Thursday, May 29, 2014

That Mess at the VA

There are buckets of digits being spilled on the VA scandal, so I felt I should contribute or be left behind.

First, the crime.  Problems at the VA with service have long been known, and predate the current administration. I'm sure they even predate me.  The specific allegations being aired now are primarily that, at a large number of VA hospitals, wait times for medical treatment were extremely long, as much as 115 day, and, even worse, VA administrators were keeping double sets of books on the wait times, keeping veterans off the "official" computerized wait lists on double secret pencil and paper wait lists, to minimize the reporting of wait times so that they would remain eligible for performance bonuses.  At the very minimum, this constitutes some kind of fraud. Or if it doesn't, it should.

Among the other things that Preznit Obama campaigned on was a promise to reform the VA and improve the treatment of veterans. It appears his means of doing this was to appoint General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of the VA and lose interest, assuming his part was done.  Shinseki had made himself popular with liberals by opposing some aspects of Rumsfeld plans for the Iraq war, claiming that it would require several hundred thousand troops remaining in Iraq to keep the peace in post-war Iraq; a proposition which may still be valid by virtue of having never been tested in practice.

In that spirit, I present my prescriptions from the top on down.

Gen. Shinseki should do the honorable thing and commit hari-kiri resign. I don't particularly blame him for the crisis, but I do think that as the commander over this particular failure, he should accept the responsibility and leave on his own, or be removed from the command if necessary. He should be familiar with the concept.  I doubt that a military man was a good choice to manage a huge unwieldy civilian agency. Unlike a military hierarchy, it is much more difficult to control a largely unionized civilian work force, whose careers are almost entirely safe from anything short of videotaped acts of gross malfeasance. They appear to have taken this to heart and acted accordingly.

Now, I assume that like all other Federal agencies, the upper administration of the VA is largely populated with SES (Senior Executive Service) people, which according to Wikipedia, are the civilian equivalents of generals and admirals.  Unless these people can show that they were actively opposing, and working to reveal the problems in the agency, they should go too. Ignorance is no excuse. Any found to be complicit, or even aware of the wait list problem without making any attempt to fix it should be prosecuted to the greatest extent possible. Since the usual practice of Federal prosecutors is to overcharge, to force a favorable settlement, that should also be encouraged.  Possibly on grounds of treason (giving comfort to our enemies by denying aid to our veterans). I would allow any who wish to resign ahead of the investigation, but once the investigation has begun, no Get Out of Jail free cards allowed.

Now that giant bureaucracy at the VA itself. Anyone who assembled, touched, coached someone else to create or even knew about and overlooked should also be fired from government service, and forbidden any further government employment as proven dishonest and unreliable.

The whole pyramid of the VA hierarchy should be shortened and widened, with a decrease in the administrative overhead.  For every SES or GS-15 gone, they should be able to afford a new doctor at a VA hospital.

We should consider a program to privatize the VA hospitals, selling or even giving them, if necessary, along with their staff, to private health care providers.  Then veterans would be given vouchers for care.  We have this new shiny health care system.  Instead of the VA hospitals, permit each veteran currently eligible for VA medical benefits to buy a "gold" health care plan of his or her choice on the Obamacare exchange, paid for by the VA, including deductibles.  The hospitals and staffs of the former VA hospitals would still be available to treat these vets, under new private management.

As I said, I advance these proposals in the almost certain knowledge that they will not be followed. Already, my own Congressmen (over every vote I've had the opportunity to cast)  "Tax and Spend" Steny Hoyer has rushed to the defense of the VA bureaucracy:

Steny Hoyer: We Must Protect The Most Important Clients of the VA-- Democrat-Voting Government Bureaucrats
He says that the GOP is "politicizing" the VA scandal, apparently by refusing to go along with the standard operating Democrat procedure of stonewall, cover-up, distraction, and then saying "That was two years ago dude."
The House's No. 2 Democrat accused Republicans of exploiting the scandal that has enveloped the Veterans Affairs Department for political gain and said he is worried that civil servants could be swept up unfairly in a witch hunt.
Is there anyone in America apart from a union-serving progressive office-holder who sees the main problem with the VA scandal as exposing civil servants to unfair disciplinary measures?

It is incredible. We're only a few weeks of genuine coverage of this scandal and the Democrats are already hitting the Phony Scandal button.

Usually they'd wait for a nothing-to-see-here cook-the-books cover-up report for that.
I don't think there's any doubt about it... that is essentially the tactic that Republicans are trying to employ," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters Wednesday.
"In some cases there are huge fishing expeditions which are going on for millions of documents that goes beyond the realm of oversight and politicizes the issue very greatly."
Previous cover-ups have ended with IG's claiming they didn't have any "substantiation" for wrongdoing that was plainly going on.

The only way to get such substantiation is by getting the emails, as the Daily Beast did.

But of course Steny Hoyer doesn't want that -- he wants to protect his real constituents, government workers.
And, dammit, he's partly right.  We do blame the entrenched bureaucracy for this. They don't do it because they hate veterans or anything like that. They do it because the first job of any governmental authority is to preserve its own existence, and it's second is to expand its size and power and sense of entitlement. The actual nominal function of the agency is way down the priority list and  left to the bottom rung employees, and/or contractors. And they all vote almost entirely for the democrats because democrats are the party of the unbridled government.

The VA system is the purest form of single-payer health care as practiced here in the United States. Take a good long look at what Nancy Pelosi intends for the rest of us.

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