Veteran scandal — the self-interested duping the blind
By WASHINGTON EXAMINER • 8/3/16 12:01 AM
"We cannot privatize and outsource healthcare for America's veterans," President Obama recently said at an even for disabled veterans.
The president has incredible gall, for he has let veterans down massively during his term in office. "Privatization" is a classic scare-word among liberals. In this case, it refers to legislation that would allow veterans to see any doctor they like, including those outside the VA system, at VA expense. Which, of course, has nothing to do with privatization and is merely allowing veterans to see a private-sector doctor at public expense.
It is a measure intended to make up for the shortcomings of an agency with problems Obama refuses to fix, even though it cannot be said that he personally created them.
The VA under Obama has behaved disgracefully. Its bureaucrats, we discovered two years ago, maliciously hid a backlog of requests for doctors' appointments so they could pay themselves performance bonuses. The misidentified "privatization" measures are intended to force the agency's hand in providing vets with medical care.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans died before their benefit applications were processed. Long after that scandal broke, whistleblowers revealed that ancient applications were still languishing in VA offices. And whistleblowers suffered retaliation that is an endemic feature of the self-serving federal bureaucratic culture.
Within the agency's top ranks, failure is repeatedly rewarded. Managers who committed unconscionable acts — some swindled the government, interfered with congressional investigations and covered up infectious outbreaks at their medical facilities — were not only allowed to keep their jobs and paid bonuses, but were also officially congratulated.
Recent news has only added to veterans' indignities. Even as they were left without care and adequate support from the VA, the agency spent at least $20 million on sculptures and "ornamental furnishings" at various facilities, according to a report by nonprofit watchdog Open the Books.
The total dollar amount was perhaps much greater, and House Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., wants to know exactly how great it is. A single facility in Palo Alto, Calif., paid $6.5 million for decorations. One of its expenses was $280,000 for a sculpture in its parking garage. The facility in question, by the way, is for the blind. So the sculpture was presumably for either the aesthetic pleasure or self esteem of agency staff.
As they resist all efforts at reform, VA bureaucrats repeatedly complain that they're overwhelmed and starved for resources. The lie is given to that claim by money wasted on bonuses for malingering colleagues and artwork for their facilities. And that wasted money is only a small part of what could have gone instead toward hiring more doctors and support staff.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald, who was brought in by Obama to clean house and fix the department's problems, instead doggedly defends business as usual at the agency. He has given up trying to change it for the better. We recently called for his resignation after his absurd assertion
that veterans' wait-times don't really matter.
The fact that Obama hasn't demanded his head already shows that nothing will improve at the VA until there is a new occupant of the Oval Office. Obama is offering veterans no way out. He won't fix the agency which is meant to provide their benefits, and plainly intends to stop private medicine stepping into the breach to make up for its shortcomings.
Privatization would actually be a very good thing for the Veterans Administration. It would would make sure more appropriated money went to veterans' care and less went to bureaucrats and their working conditions. Which, naturally, means Democrats won't let it happen.