Letter: The VA: A victim or a corrupt department?
The Veterans Administration, our newest victim or another corrupt government department? Are veterans dying while waiting for medical care? Yes, people all over the planet die while awaiting medical care. It is a matter of fact and a shame. But is it a crime?
If your doctor can’t see you for months, you have two choices: wait and risk the consequences, or go somewhere else. If your insurance won’t cover it or you can’t afford the treatment, it is still your decision. If it is life threatening, an emergency room will help.
These are facts all people face when making medical decisions. If you die waiting, did your doctor or, in this case, the VA do wrong? I think it is a shame, but no. Personal responsibility must always be considered.
Are we living up to our promise to care for veterans? Never have and never will. Medical care, whether public, private or governmental, are constrained by many of the same factors—budget and patient population size. It is fact more money has been allocated to the VA; but money seldom fixes problems, it only makes them more expensive. Since I was a young man serving during Vietnam, our country has had very few years we were not engaged in conflict around the world, swelling the numbers of those who utilize the VA.
The fact is most civilian hospitals are not equipped to handle many combat-related injuries, either physical or mental. It is also a fact many, many VAs are swamped with non-combat related problems that could be treated elsewhere and should be, period. It is also a fact many people today game the VA just like our much maligned welfare system. I personally have met several of these folks. One, for example, was jogging down the road with his girlfriend on his shoulders. This person was seeking an early out and wanted a compressed spine to start his free ride with the VA. A lot of time, money and medical attention that someone who deserves won’t get is stolen this way.
Is the VA innocent? No. I understand the VA is tasked with seeing many more folks than they can handle and bureaucracy only increases the problem. But this fact is not a justification for bad behavior. Our government has fallen into the Catch-22 of trying to create efficiency by taking money that could be spent improving facilities, for example, on bonuses. All organizations that create metrics where, if certain performance numbers are met, the employees get a bonus, usually fail. The fact is everyone wants their pay, so dishonesty is a given. Workers should not be used as pawns and hiding problems will not fix them.
Can we do better? Yes. Multiple health care systems have inherent cost. A specialized hospital system for combat injuries is necessary due to its uniqueness, but when a person needs normal medical care, it does not.