Fixing the VA starts now

  • Follow Letters

With the recent announcement of Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, it appears the major and serious issues regarding VA medical care will fall into someone else’s lap.

What appears overlooked in most reports covering the present VA scandal is how the VA mission has morphed over its long history. Initially, the VA provided domiciliary accommodations and treatment for veterans injured during combat. After World War II, the VA was flooded with veterans. It was decentralized, leading to field offices that administered benefits expanded to include educational assistance, life insurance, pensions and home loans, among others.

About two decades ago, the Veterans Health Administration began providing primary care. This coincided with substantial reductions in inpatient facilities and employees, while the patient population doubled in size. Over the same time frame, the costs of VA services began to outstrip its annual budget.

These statistics almost have a bearing on the present sad state of affairs, penalizing the many patients who depend almost entirely on the VA for their care. Shinseki cannot be blamed directly for all the problems revealed to date, as many clearly predate his appointment. However, it is not clear that any single individual can do the heavy lifting required without getting the VA’s complete buy-in to a systemic overhaul.

Former VA Secretary Anthony Principi has suggested that formal integration of the VHA and Department of Defense health systems could achieve significant savings by economies of scale and benefit the same patients at different stages of their lives (The Wall Street Journal, May 30). This might be a good start but will not happen overnight.

As a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army Medical Corps, I would suggest that the very first step in changing the VA culture should be wholesale punishment of all staff involved in these unthinkable acts that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of those who proudly served our country during war.

Lawrence Devoe


Comments (6) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
deestafford 06/07/14 - 07:59 am
Very informative letter to a complex problem..

Very informative letter to a complex problem.

I disagree with the combining the DOD facilities with the VA. On paper there may appear to be an economy of scale but the reality on the ground will be a decline in the healthcare at DOD facilities. Putting one broke system in with a good one will only bring the good one down.

Another contributing factor was the changing of who is eligible for VA healthcare. At one time only those veterans with service connected problems were eligible for VA care and then it was changed so that a veteran with any problem whether it was service connected or not was eligible.

ymnbde 06/07/14 - 08:17 am
when good workers are overwhelmed by a bureacracy

they cannot function well, or function at all
the VA isn't so much a scandal as a lesson
that we knew already
and it is our future with O'care

deestafford 06/07/14 - 08:17 am
A major contributor to the VA problem is the unions....

A major contributor to the VA problem is the unions.

In 2010 Shinseki bragged about how the VA employees were two-thirds unionized. In essence, 200,000 of the 300,000 employees belonged to either the AFGME or SEIU.

In 2012 the VA paid 258 VA employees to work full time, receiving full pay and benefits, to perform "full time" union duties. Seventeen of these had $100+K up to $132K annual salaries. The General Accounting Office released a report that the VA paid for 988,000 hours of union "full time" in FY 2011 a 21% increase from 2010.

The unions have resisted any changes or modifications in work loads or schedules, job classification, duties, and/or schedules. They have also resisted any changes in patient alternative care such as vouchers for veterans to see non-VA medical personnel because they saw it as a threat to their jobs.

AFGME puts out regular press releases blasting any "outsourcing" of any non-VA-union members.

It will be interesting to see how the unions react to actions being taken in the House and Senate on vouchers for veterans.

Information as to the unions' influence and impact on the VA has been absent from the media. Wonder why?

jimmymac 06/07/14 - 11:15 am

The bloated VA is beyond repair. It's time to dismantle it and spend the money on vouchers for veterans to buy their own healthcare in the private sector. Choice is always the answer to getting what you're paying for. Like most government agency's efficiency isn't a measuring stick for bonuses. All you have to do is look at the IRS staff getting bonuses while a scandal was brewing and now the VA as well

Sweet son
Sweet son 06/07/14 - 12:24 pm
The Veterans Administration is just indicative of federal

government agencies in general. They all fail miserably performing the tasks which they were assigned and are heavy staffed beyond comprehension. The Feds need to look at every position from top to bottom. I am sure there are many duplicates and that some are doing nothing while drawing their pay and building a retirement.

Two agencies that I have dealt with are Social Security and the IRS. Try to get help from them! LOL!

Truth Matters
Truth Matters 06/07/14 - 12:30 pm
"A major contributor to the

"A major contributor to the VA problem is the unions."

Not so fast. Unless the Unions dropped in and instructed schedulers to schedule people in a system that did not have the staffing to support those appointments, I don't think so. I heard one former doctor report that the impetus for some of this fraud was bonuses, much like the Atlanta Public Schools situation. For sure, those individuals who did that to the veterans should go to jail.

Let's hope the Sanders-McCain proposal/bill (whatever it is at this point), gets the backing it needs to make a difference.

Darby 06/07/14 - 02:48 pm
"However, it is not clear that any single individual

can do the heavy lifting required without getting the VA’s complete buy-in to a systemic overhaul."

One guy at the top, with a reputation for being fair but harsh.... with the willingness to reward real work and innovation while kicking butt wherever and whenever required...

That one guy can work wonders. It's called leadership. Something we aren't seeing anywhere we look today.

The culture of "entitlement" has crept into the leadership roles in recent years.....

As in, "You've shown the proper support to the right people and causes, here' a nice cushy job to reward your loyalty."

JimS 06/08/14 - 08:39 am
On All Veterans' Issues - ALL

On All Veterans' Issues - ALL GOP Lawmakers

VA may have retaliated against whistleblowers, watchdog says

As a Vet what the 'watchdog' report should have said: "GOPer VA employee's within might have retaliated on their own Whistleblowers, mistakenly!!"

“Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

The more that comes out on this the continuation of the Decades Long SCANDAL, not a VA scandal, of those served through their lawmakers! The more most evidence gathering on, greed and politics where politics has no place, looks like another front in the long want for the GOP to privatize government agencies, that's working real well where they've succeeded in parts of with them highly paid private contractors now hasn't it, for corporate profit from the peoples treasury. And as they would still be called 'government agencies' the ability to legislate extra fee's and costs, think our recent rubber stamped no bid contracts wars, especially the quick built merc army that spread into intelligence gathering and more, or the NSA intelligence gathering, running special ops operations and more. And when private , no oversite, no regulations, and absolutely no accountability, they would continue blaming those working in the agencies, the few to make it still look like a government agency, they do that now without mentioning them corporate government private entities!

The added to this was that Gen Shinseki, within the only government branch doing for not only the Veterans but the Military personal and their families now for five years, had a target on him since he spoke Military Truth and bushco fired him! Well he's now resigned, another GOPer 'mission accomplished' and to them no need to fix the long term problems they created in that front to privatize!!!!

Notice that when attacking the VA, or any government agency and personal, in hearings on the news waves in their districts........, they never related those at the huge problems found with that bottom line only, and with growing problems, found in the privatized already government work being done, nor within the whole corporate america new capitalism ideologies!

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too — not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs