Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The VA Scandal--More Empty Rhetoric From Mr. Obama In The Face Of Reasonable + Apparent Solutions

It turns out that the president was unaware, yet pleasantly surprised to learn that he'd be working on the VA problems all along...Jay Carney Tweet

  • We've heard this same speech {Pres. Obama's presser this morning re: The VA Scandal} many times. In response to Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA and other scandals, the rhetoric is always "I'm really angry" or "I just found out" {in this case from the news media when even CNN has been reporting on this scandal for about 6 months} and "I will be holding people accountable." In fact, while it was reported that at least 40 vets died from lack of timely medical care, only one person lost his job---Dr. Petzel---who had announced his retirement, as well as his replacement, last year anyway.
  • So what are the take-aways from all of this empty rhetoric? For one, we know Obama rarely, if ever, holds anyone accountable unless he's blaming Republicans, former Pres. Bush or Fox News. We also know that bureaucrats have been left in their positions and even received bonuses. For example, the CEO of the Phoenix VA---where the veterans died--- was given a bonus in 2013 as did IRS officials. To add insult to injury, IRS employees who didn't pay their taxes still received bonuses. (Washington Free Beacon + PBS).  We also know he demands full reports conspicuously timed after the next election.
  • The fact is nothing really happens. No one gets fired. And, as many reports indicate, they still get promoted, get raises and even get bonuses.
  • But there is some good news. I have this gut feeling that this current scandal with the VA has elevated the conscience---the awareness---among more Americans. While the other scandals have been downplayed by many (especially the main stream media), in the case of the VA a red line has been crossed. Most Americans want our veterans---especially our sick veterans---treated with competent medical care and respect. It's clear the system broke down and too many in government paid little or no attention to it.
  • In my opinion, there are some reasonable solutions. For example,  VA Medical Centers are widely dispersed throughout the nation (the closest VA Medical Center to me is about 25 miles away, for many others, they actually have to travel to other states to get specific care such as eye treatments, bypasses, neurosurgery, etc.). For other vets, it can take up to several hours just to get to a medical center or clinic. And keep in mind, as I can attest, it's not always an issue of medical care. On a personal level, I've been generally pleased with the care I've received at the VA albeit some long waits. For many veterans it's an issue of just getting in to get the medical care.
  • One reasonable alternative would be to offer vets vouchers so they can access the nearest community hospital to their residence. Another option could be setting up a regional health care system where the VA Medical Center is the hub of the system but vets would be able to use other health care providers within a specific geographic area. In other words, the solutions are out there. They would not be as costly and vets can be assured of getting their needed medical care in a timely fashion.
  • But the last thing we need is stale, empty rhetoric. We need!