The Department of Veterans Affairs Needs a Radical Overhaul

Originally published at the Washington Times

The Department of Veterans Affairs Needs a Radical Overhaul
The Department of Veterans Affairs Needs a Radical Overhaul
Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- In December 2010, a fruit seller in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire in front of a provincial government office.

That act of despair–and the man’s subsequent death–ignited a revolution of consciousness in Tunisia and throughout the Arab world. The street vendor’s protest touched off a surge of public outrage with the corruption, abuses and failures of governments throughout the region. It was the turmoil that became known as the Arab Spring.

Last month, a 51-year-old veteran set himself on fire in front of a Veterans Administration facility in Northfield, New Jersey. His comparable act of despair should be a call to another political revolution here in the United States–one focused on transforming the bureaucracies that are failing many of the most vulnerable Americans, not least our veterans.

No American should be satisfied with the incompetence and corruption exemplified by the VA. That the Department of Veterans Affairs is grievously sick has been evident since at least 2007, when the stories of neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center began to get public attention. We learned that the VA had wounded veterans recovering in deplorable conditions, and that the carelessness and indifference of the administrators led to a number of deaths.

Over the next nine years, we have watched the bureaucracy try and fail to cure itself.

In 2014, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned after press reports revealed that dozens of VA medical facilities had been hiding outrageously long wait times through fraudulent record-keeping, and that tens of thousands of veterans had been waiting months or even years for appointments.

We later learned that more than 300,000 veterans may have died waiting for care.

Of course, firing the Secretary did not fix a system that is corrupt, extraordinarily resistant to change, and devoted to its own self-preservation. The new secretary, Robert McDonald, has attempted to fire several of the senior executives responsible for the wait-time fraud. He has discovered that, due to public employee unions’ intransigence, it will take up to 700 days (two years!) before the agency actually succeeds in firing them.

In the meantime, they could continue to receive full pay–in one case, $250,000 a year–at taxpayer expense.

And so the outrages continue. In an Inspector General’s report released this month, we learned that the person the VA appointed to fix the Phoenix VA’s wait time scandal apparently manipulated wait times in her previous position as head of a VA facility in Vermont–and that her superiors knew it. The week she took control of the Phoenix VA, the Daily Caller reports, “her superiors saw papers confirming the Vermont hospital had the same issues with wait-time falsification — with equally deadly results — as Phoenix.” In the IG report, the story continues,

a litany of schedulers at White River [the Vermont facility] told identical stories about being instructed during [her] tenure to game the data to show that veterans were given instant appointments. Those who didn’t were told they would be punished. Multiple levels of supervisors enforced the instructions, all the way up to at least the patient care chief.

In another report published this week, we learned that the backlog of appeals cases in the veterans benefits system approaches half a million. “We’re failing veterans,” Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said of the system. “This process is failing veterans. Nobody can defend the status quo here.”

In yet another case, we learned that the VA systematically and intentionally declined to pay its proper share of veterans’ emergency room bills, causing many veterans to face enormous fees:

In a recent court decision, the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims…held VA was violating federal law using an unlawful interpretation of statute. That statute required VA to pay for all uncovered costs related to veterans’ emergency room (ER) services.

VA surreptitiously interpreted the statute to justify denial of payments to veterans with insurance that would cover part but not all of emergency room visits.

The interpretation resulted in veterans getting stuck with enormous bills following emergency room visits. According to the National Law Journal article, VA stuck veteran Richard Staab with uncovered portion of his bill of $48,000.

It is obvious that the VA is not going to fix itself, and so the task falls to Congress to impose real change.

The sickness of the system is so deep that, like a body infected with life-threatening cancer, the agency will need radical surgery if it is to survive.

And a radical surgery is what Congress should perform in completely overhauling the agency. It is time to put veterans first, not bureaucrats.

Your Friend,
Newt

Duplicity by Newt Gingrich : http://tiny.cc/5abr9x
Duplicity by Newt Gingrich : http://tiny.cc/5abr9x

 

P.S. Callista's and my new documentary film, Divine Mercy: The Canonization of John Paul II is now available at the Gingrich Productions store. The film celebrates one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century and is a vivid reminder of the holy and heroic life of Saint John Paul II, who changed the course of history. Click here to watch the trailer and order now>>

About Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is well-known as the architect of the “Contract with America” that led the Republican Party to victory in 1994 by capturing the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. After he was elected Speaker, he disrupted the status quo by moving power out of Washington and back to the American people.

Gingrich Productions is a performance and production company featuring the work of Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich. Visit : http://www.gingrichproductions.com/

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ChuckGrey Beard5WarVeteranabelhornRobert Recent comment authors
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Chuck
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Chuck

All veterans should have the choice of either going to the VA or getting a Blue Cross card.
Give veterans access to the same Healthcare programs available to federal civil service.

The VA hospital system should be turned over to indigent care instead of this disastrous Obamacare mess.

5WarVeteran
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5WarVeteran

The Veterans Administration, giving soldiers a second chance to die for their country since 1930…..

I am the Veteran they talk about when it comes to a failure of the VA.

abelhorn
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abelhorn

Going to VA since 1970 in several states
Life saved 2 times
Not perfect but outside VA not perfect either
Have seen some problems but mostly GOOD CARE
Some of the best Doctors in the Country.

Robert
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Robert

With. the words of Erin above, I must consider myself, and those who attend my CBOC, as some of the luckiest around. There are still problems we contend with, but nothing of which was described in that comment. My main issue has bee with. the revolving door of primary care providers. My CBOC has three PCP’s, and they seem to rotate out every three years or less. This leaves me with a PCP that wants to start back at the beginning, question my medications, question my lack of response to physical therapy (a 21 year old injury consisting of 3… Read more »

Erin
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Erin

The VA is awful. Veterans who have severe mental health issues can only see a mental health professional once every six months at the most. Primary Care Managers are nothing more than glorified nurses that care more about themselves than the patients assigned to them. They get appointed and the first thing they do is void all of their patients medication prior to even speaking with them let alone meeting them through an appointment. Primary Care Managers try to take Veterans off of their mental health medications, a jurisdiction they have no expertise in. Surgical procedure wait times are astronomical… Read more »

Matt in Oklahoma
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Matt in Oklahoma

The author was part of the problem back in the day. The VA issue didn’t just start

Grey Beard
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Grey Beard

I’d sure like a little back up, support documentation for your otherwise unfounded “opinion.”

Daniel medlin
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Daniel medlin

We have been taking advantage and profiting from the veterans flesh for way too long

Daniel medlin
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Daniel medlin

We will not stand much longer as a nation taking advantage of The Flesh of the ones that have protected us