With VA in Turmoil, Calls for Change Grow

John Boehner

In Los Angeles, they were sending mail from veterans to the shredder.  (That includes documents which had the potential to affect veterans’ benefits and should have been reviewed first.)

In Reno, they were sending out letters from an administrator who retired nearly two years ago.  (You can only imagine what kind of runaround veterans got when they called in trying to reach that administrator.)

In Oregon, patients had to walk out of an emergency room after going all night without being seen.   (“It’s a shame to see people sitting there for hours and hours and finally just getting up and leaving because they can’t get anybody to even come out,” one Vietnam veteran said.)

These things are happening at VA offices and facilities around the country.  They range from the routine to the revolting.  But they all stem from a broken culture in which fixing problems and holding people accountable aren’t priorities.  While we can keep passing reforms, only the president can change the culture, and he still hasn’t proposed a plan to fix this mess long-term.

So it’s no surprise that calls for change at the VA are growing, and they’re coming from outlets across the country – another indication of just how widespread these problems are:

Albuquerque Journal: “Some things don’t change at the VA, but they should
“Despite the 2014 scandal over long wait times for U.S. military veterans to access health care and phantom lists to hide the problem, a new report by the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general shows little progress has been made.  The report said there are nearly 900,000 pending applications by military veterans for access to VA health care.  Some go back nearly two decades. About one-third of those veterans are thought to be dead, which means they never got the VA health care they earned, although they may have accessed health care via other avenues.  Still, that is a tragedy of immense proportions. … So perhaps there is hope for reform at the national level. If it means overhauling the VA system, so be it.

Arizona Republic: “With the VA, it’s always worse than we expect
“With the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is always wise to assume things are worse than they first appear. … A new inspector-general report exposing details of the VA’s appalling system of record-keeping validates the cynicism.  It is horrid. … Even as it has attempted to address the issues exposed first at the Phoenix VA hospital, the agency has consistently demonstrated an inability to anticipate the level of services that veterans, especially those returning from war, will need. That planning haplessness has sent the VA tumbling into chronic budget shortfalls for two straight fiscal years. When are they going to learn?  The answer to that question is becoming increasingly, tragically, apparent.  Perhaps never.”

Dallas Morning News: “Staggering numbers are only part of the VA tragedy
“If you follow the news, you’d like to believe that one day you will understand the true scope of the mess the Department of Veterans Affairs made of health care for Americans who earned it and need it, if only so we can avoid such mistakes again.  The latest audit report from the VA inspector general’s office offers some hope, balanced by more bad news. Investigators were able to answer their four central questions, but VA workers made such a hash of their record-keeping over the years that greater specificity may forever be beyond our grasp. … Understanding the scope of a problem is only one step toward fixing it, but it’s not a step one can skip. Will we ever get to that starting line?

Rochester Democrat Chronicle: “VA must move swiftly on changes
“The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, has put the VA on its high-risk list, citing the backlog, the falsified appointment records and inadequate computer systems among other problems.  The report did cite improvements enacted by Congress and Obama last summer that allow certain veterans to get health care at private facilities and also enable the VA to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff.  But the implementation of the changes has been slow in coming. Our veterans deserve better. The long wait times for appointments have been known for years now and are taking way too long to fix.

Roseburg (Oregon) News-Review:Time’s up, VA: Fix your problems now
“Yet these people in need of medical attention are not just any patients — they are veterans who gave to their country when they were called upon to do so.  Now that they need help, why is the country not there for them?…If veterans across the country are having to endure the extended wait times that local veterans are having to endure — and the odds are good they are — then the Stars and Stripes at every VA around the country should be flown at half-staff until veterans receive the respect and the treatment they deserve.

Tulsa World:VA system still a mess
“First the bad news: Almost 900,000 U.S. veterans are waiting for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Now the worse news: The VA has no confidence in that figure because at least a third of veterans involved are probably dead, although no one really knows. … The report is a disturbing indication that the system is still broken, and that McDonald’s reform of the VA remains a job undone.

WALB News, Albany, Georgia: “Serving our veterans
“We often get calls from Vets who have trouble getting the help they need. Many times they just need help cutting through the red tape.  The men and women who need the VA have done what only one percent of Americans are willing to do: Put their life on the line to protect the rest of us.  We salute the VA for their outreach efforts, but now we call on them to put into practice, the solutions for the problems identified.  We must make sure every Veteran gets all the help they need.”

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