Why do we have a Veterans Administration?
Fundamentally, this is the key question we should be grappling with, since it became public that dozens of Veterans died waiting to get health care in the Phoenix VA system. And this is far from an isolated incident; this is an epidemic that exists in facilities all across the nation. VAs have long been unresponsive, uncaring, and unwilling to our nation’s military veterans.
President Obama campaigned on this issue in 2007. In his 2008 platform, he stated the following, among other things:
Allow All Veterans Back into the VA: Reverse the 2003 ban on enrolling modest-income veterans, which has denied care to a million veterans.
Strengthen VA Care: Make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible. Improve care for polytrauma vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women’s health.
Has this been the case?
Of course not. Although Obama and Democrats have focused on health care reform, they did little to change the fundamental broken system within the Veterans Administration. In fact, if anything, letting the problem largely fester has worsened issues, while blindly increasing funding, likely has led to more morbidity and mortality in some dysfunctional facilities.
The problem with all of Obama’s promises at this point is that none of it accepts a fundamental, basic fact: the VA has long been broken. These problems existed long before Barack Obama rose to the Presidency. It is a system whose internal dysfunction cannot simply be fixed by added funding or minor reforms. And it is highly unlikely that the bureaucrats in this administration are going to fix a long-standing problem without massive changes that other bureaucrats in other administrations failed to accomplish.
I do believe the VA could be fixed. It would take an extensive, persistent effort to change the management, culture, philosophy, and underlying tenets of warped system.
I fundamentally don’t believe this administration is willing take on that challenge.
Are they willing to accept that public sector unions have been a major source of the dysfunction? Are they willing to accept the payment model breeds inefficiency? Do they understand that there is layer after layer of administrators in the system whose only job is self survival in the bureaucratic mire that is the VA?
That is why I ask a simple question: Why do we have a Veterans Administration? The original cause was to provide health care access to our military heroes, because there was no other easy access. However, with the Affordable Care Act, we now have another method to provide that care, do we not?
So then, why do we maintain a duplicate system that, as can easily be demonstrated, not working?
Surely, there are some portions of the VA that will have to be maintained. Special units that focus on battlefield injuries, as stated in Obama’s platform, which no private hospital would be able to deal with, must be maintained. I am sure there are other examples.
But for the vast majority of our nation’s Veterans, access to the private sector would be far more responsive and sufficient for their needs. The VA could simply provide them ample vouchers (on top of the subsidies already available through the ACA) to fund the maximum coverage on the Obamacare exchanges…and allow them to enjoy the fruits of our private sector health care system.
So why do we have a Veterans Administration? I bet this question has never been asked or answered in the West Wing or Oval Office. And that fundamentally is why this administration will never succeed in fixing this problem.