What is wrong with the VA?
Just got off the phone after ranting to the poor phone answerer in U.S. Repr. Greg Walden’s office in Wash DC.
I had two complaints: 1. Couldn’t send the email I wrote in response to the representative’s recent email newsletter. 2. The contents of the representative’s email newsletter totally missed the problem he was attempting to address.
You decide. First the offending newsletter (edited for brevity and clarity), then my reply which somehow could not be sent to his office:
“The scandals and mismanagement that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are unacceptable. And it is a personal priority of mine to bring back transparency and accountability to the VA. That’s why I am proud that the U.S. House has passed several pieces of legislation in recent weeks to help our nation’s veterans.
To start, the Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act focuses on cutting red tape for veterans as they look for jobs, education, and medical services. It would strengthen the GI Bill program as well as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, expand successful PTSD programs, and protect veteran-owned small businesses. Importantly, this legislation has support from American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.
I believe decisions about veterans’ benefits should not be controlled by an agency in Washington, D.C. That’s why I also supported the American Heroes COLA Act, a bill that would expedite the VA’s processing of certain benefit claims and appeals, as well as put in place an automatic cost of living increase for our vets.
In order to turn around its worst performing medical centers, the VA needs to first acknowledge its problems. I believe a third bill that I recently supported, the VA Medical Center Recovery Act, is a step in that direction. The bill puts in place clear definitions and metrics for the VA to measure how their medical centers are serving veterans, and gives the agency the tools to intervene when a medical center is failing.
Under this bill, a “rapid response team” of top managers and medical professionals would be deployed to failed facilities with the sole task of taking over and taking charge. The team would be able to cut through the broken bureaucracy by having direct access to VA Secretary Robert McDonald and his top officials, ensuring that decisions are made quickly and at the highest level. We need to take away the VA’s excuses for failure and force them to be accountable, and this bill will help get us there.
Of course, it is a failure on all counts when we lose a veteran to suicide. You might remember that last year when Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans. This piece of legislation helps expand mental health and suicide prevention programs within the VA.
I’m pleased to let you know about a similar bill recently passed by the U.S. House, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. According to a study by the VA, women veterans are nearly six times more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran women.
Best regards, Greg Walden, U.S. Representative, Oregon’s Second District”
“Thanks for trying to help, but MORE MONEY and MORE LAWS are how we got here! The bills you mention do nothing to help veterans – they just expand the VA and its hangers-on. They do nothing to fix the VA, they just add more people.
I don’t see a path to improving VA management. Whistleblowers still can be punished, bad VA administrators can still get raises, bonuses and promotions to new places, veterans can still be ignored or forgotten. Does that “rapid response team” consist of VA employees?
More money and more laws is how we got where we are today. Find someone who knows how to run a hospital system, hire that person, give the person CEO authority and a deadline. And stand back.
Well, my dear readers, what do you think?
N.B. For more information, start by googling: Veteran’s Administration.
N.B. II – My dad and uncle used VA services extensively years ago, and neither one complained to me. Plus, a local Marine veteran told me he was quite satisfied with the services he got, though he had heard of problems.