By LARRY JONES
With all the recent controversy surrounding the healthcare provided to our veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs, I can’t resist the opportunity to weigh in with a few thoughts of my own. Over the past month or so, especially the past couple of weeks, it seems that everyone and his/her dog has pointed out facets of a very flawed and disgraceful system charged with providing care for those who served in uniform to protect and defend our nation. In each commentary, everyone concurs that our veterans deserve better.
In his second Inaugural Speech, President Abraham Lincoln stood before a crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue and declared that it is our responsibility, “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan…” These poignant words have been adopted as the motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but I would suggest that the effectiveness of this massive bureaucracy to fulfill this role has steadfastly remained a subject of great controversy.
Just over a week ago I was witness to a political spectacle that made me sad and even a bit ashamed of our system of government. In order to deflect blame from themselves, our Imposter-in-Chief, our 535 congressional members, and other high level officials were quick to throw General Eric Shinseki under the bus. Gen. Shinseki, in my mind, was probably the most honorable person among the entire lot.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is riddled with flaws brought about by an infinite supply of causes. The recent crescendo of indignation was brought about by excessively long delays for patients to receive treatment. This appalling disgrace was further exacerbated by high level bureaucrats attempting to cover up the problem — cooking the books with deceptive and false reporting.
Much of this dilemma was brought about by Congress greatly increasing the range of services and those eligible for treatment by VA during recent decades without a commensurate increase in funding. In addition, Congress controls VA’s procurement policies, and further oversees personnel management procedures, making it virtually impossible to fire incompetent or corrupt union members and civil servants, especially at higher levels. To their credit, the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4031 giving the VA Secretary more power to remove unethical or incompetent employees, but it languished in the Senate.