The VA Scandal and What Needs to Change

The recent scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs is nothing new for the department. The agency has been plagued by mismanagement and has understaffed and underfunded since it's inception. And it will most likely continue as such. 
A 1970 article from life magazine states,
"The VA hospital system . . . the biggest in the world . . . is disgracefully understaffed, with standards far below those of an average community hospital. Many wards remain closed for want of personnel and the rest are strained with overcrowding. . . . At Miami’s VA hospital, while sophisticated new equipment sits idle, patients may wait hours for needed blood transfusions. At the VA’s showplace hospital in Washington, D.C., a single registered nurse may minister to as many as 80 patients at a time. [Doctors in Los Angeles] describe conditions as “medieval” and “filthy.”" [America’s Appalling Veterans Affairs Scandal: The 1970 Edition |]
Why the current VA system will never change...
The VA Healthcare System does have the best of intentions and it is full of excellent employees that are extremely loyal their cause and are determined to provide the best possible service to our veterans. However, with any government run organization the customer is not necessarily the priority as it is in privatized healthcare. For a few reasons:

  1. Funding for the VA comes from tax payer dollars, so the customer experience doesn't affect the budget.
  2. In government you answer to, or are accountable to those up the chain and not down. Unless of course there's major dissent in the ranks, customer base, or there's a major morale issue. Then you might refocus your efforts. 
  3. Getting fired from a government job is much harder than you'd believe and usually requires hurdles and tape of the red variety. Especially if a union is involved. So if you do a stellar job or a not so stellar job, the paychecks keep coming. There's no incentive to be good unless you are in upper management and you have a bonus on the line. Even then, those are usually guaranteed. 
  4. The VA has a near monopoly on its customer base. 
  5. When you spend other peoples money, efficiency isn't exactly a priority. Because if you overspend or under-spend, your paycheck is still coming in. And if you think I'm wrong go to ANY government office at the end of the fiscal year. TRUST ME. Even if they spend all year cutting corners trying to be as frugal as possible, at the end of the year if there's a surplus they will spend it, or risk having their budgets lowered for the following year. And I'm not talking about a couple of thousand dollars either. I'm talking about MILLIONS. I use to experience this very same thing while serving in the Army; even before 9/11 when budgets were really tight. 

 "Top-level employees at VA facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; Little Rock, Arkabsas; Harlingen, Texas; and Jackson, Mississippi, received bonuses totaling $109,887 in fiscal 2013, according to data provided by the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee, despite whistleblower reports including unsanitary equipment and improperly credentialed surgeons." (

The Benefits of Privatized Healthcare

1. Customer satisfaction, quality of care, and experience is a huge priority in the civilian marketplace. If the patient doesn't approve of their current providers level of care or facility management, or they don't feel like their concerns are properly addressed or handled in a timely fashion, they can just as easily take their money and insurance, and go down the road to the next clinic or hospital.
2. Accountability goes both ways.
3. It's much easier to lose your job in the civilian sector. Again, that is unless a union is involved.
4. There are many options for healthcare and treatment to choose from in the civilian marketplace.
5. Funding is NOT guaranteed.


So how do we fix the broken Department of Veterans Affairs-Veterans Health Administration? We overhaul it completely. Here are a couple of options:

1. Instead of being a healthcare provider, the Veterans Health Administration should provide an open choice healthcare insurance ONLY.

2. Have Tricare opened up to eligible veterans like they do for military, retirees, and their dependents. This way our veterans can choose who they are seen by and where.

This would open up an array options for the veteran that would then have both military and civilian treatment facilities as options for treatment. This alone would be a huge improvement over the current situation where veterans would sometimes have to drive hundreds of miles to the nearest VA facility.

For either option, a small monthly premium could be paid by the veteran with zero out of pocket costs for services, equipment and medications used to treat service related injuries and conditions. For all other services the veteran would be required to pay a copay, just like any other insurance. The Veterans Health Administration would still be the approving authority for who is qualified to receive the insurance and what injuries or conditions would be covered.

As a service-connected disabled veteran, my hope is that one day we can see the veterans healthcare system be the shining example that it should be.

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