What Does the Veterans Affairs Scandal Tell Us?

CNN broke the Veterans Affairs Scandal on April 23, called “A Fatal Wait” and President Obama just recently addressed the issue in a press conference on Wednesday, May 21. The story, though, is not entirely new news. It has been building steam for months.

The story began in 2012, when stories about mismanagement at Veteran Affairs hospitals began to leak. In December 2013, Sam Foot, a doctor of internal medicine at the Phoenix VA, began to meet with a reporter from the Arizona Republic about “secret wait lists” patients were put on, and the mismanagement of the hospital.

In April 2014 the Arizona Republic published a report with Foot’s findings as well as the touching story of Thomas Breen, a veteran who died while waiting as his family tried many times to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

According to POLITCO‘s breakdown of the scandal, CNN’s shocking report included, “internal emails showing that top management at the hospital in Arizona knew about the practice of shredding evidence of veterans requesting appointments to make it seem as though the waiting times were shorter.”

Veterans Medical Care
Associated Press

Make no mistake, this story is not merely about paperwork, it is about people dying from not receiving the care they need– a liver transplant patient died from a bacterial infection in his blood after his surgery was conducted in unsterile condition, and another patient died from E.Coli. after he “defecated in a diaper, then dug out his own feces because he was being neglected.” These two stories found in Forbes‘ article about the scandal, are just examples of the wide spread problems and horrible care in VA hospitals.

So what does the VA Scandal tell us? And what should be done about it?

The New York Post questions, “If the government can’t even make such a system work for our vets, what makes anyone think it will work for the rest of us?” 

 

The New York Post questions, “If the government can’t even make such a system work for our vets, what makes anyone think it will work for the rest of us?” 

Nancy Pelosi is blaming the wars the past administration entered into and the growing number of veterans.

Many are calling for Eric Shinseki’s, the VA Secretary, head. The New York Times is speculating about how long Shinseki will keep his job.

Avik Roy from Forbes, though, disagrees that firing people is the answer. According to Roy’s article “No the VA isn’t a Preview of Obamacare- It’s Much Worse,” the solutions are straightforward: “One would be to give veterans subsidies with which to buy insurance from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the popular private health insurance program for government workers. Another would be to allow those same subsidies to be used on the Obamacare insurance exchanges. Either approach would allow veterans to seek care from private hospitals and private physicians.”

Roy is not alone in his opinion. Oklahoma’s Senator Tom Coburn is working with Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) on a new reform plan. Sen. John McCain told Roll Call, “Let’s let our veterans choose the health care that they need and want the most and not have to be bound to just going to the VA…Why wouldn’t a veteran who has served his country honorably…not be able to go to the health care provider of his or her choice?”

The first step towards a solution is to discover how wide spread the problems are. As Roy wrote, “to understand the solution, we must first understand the problem.”

Once the scope is grasped, true reform is possible, but it will not be a quick or easy process.

The country will honor its veterans this weekend on Memorial Day, but to truly do right by them, we must vastly improve their healthcare options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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