Remember how in February of this year, we reported how the newly-named secretary of the Veterans Administration, Robert McDonald, promised he would fix the problems in the Veterans Administration, and people would be fired? In fact, on “Meet The Press” he stated, “Nine hundred people have been fired since I became secretary. We’ve got 60 people that we fired who have manipulated wait times.”Except that was a lie.
As reported by the Washington Post “McDonald said 100 senior leaders are under investigation by the inspector general and the Department of Justice. Yet McDonald is incorrect in saying that 60 employees who manipulated wait times were fired. Disciplinary actions for 75 employees have been proposed since June 3, 2014, according to the VA’s most recent weekly briefing to the House and Senate committees on veterans affairs.”
“Of the 75 employees, only eight employees have actually been removed, as of Feb. 13, 2015. Twenty-three cases were pending. Five employees resigned before a decision was made on their case. Others were demoted, were on probationary termination, had some other disciplinary action, or had no action taken at all. McDonald used his new personnel authority to propose removals of five executives — in Phoenix, Georgia, central Alabama, Pittsburgh and the VA central area office in Washington. Two retired before they could be removed, and three were actually fired. But of those three terminations, only one was officially related to the VA scandal — James Talton, director of Central Alabama’s VA.”
Maybe those numbers have gone up since then. But here’s a number that’s gone way, way up – tragically so.Fox News reports that “more than 300,000 American military veterans likely died while waiting for health care — and nearly twice as many are still waiting — according to a new Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general report.”
Just to put that horrific figure in perspective, 407,300 American troops died in all of World War II. In Vietnam, 58,220 died. How can it possibly be that our own Veterans Administration is becoming a virtual killing field for our veterans?
“The IG report says “serious” problems with enrollment data are making it impossible to determine exactly how many veterans are actively seeking health care from the VA, and how many were. For example, “data limitations” prevent investigators from determining how many now-deceased veterans applied for health care benefits or when. But the findings would appear to confirm reports that first surfaced last year that many veterans died while awaiting care, as their applications got stuck in a system that the VA has struggled to overhaul. Some applications, the IG report says, go back nearly two decades.”
Way back in May of 2014, Col. West presented these five steps for fixing the VA.1. Change of management – I didn’t say leadership because it seems no one is leading and they are certainly mismanaging. But it begins at the top with the Secretary and must go to the senior levels as well where these issues are being raised.
2. Provide immediate relief with vouchers to civilian hospitals for proper care – of course this process will need scrutiny and tracking to ensure good stewardship of the taxpayer dollar — which we all would humbly want to see go to caring for those who have borne such a burden for this Republic. But the voucher program is not the panacea to solve the greater problem.
3. Develop regional “Centers of Excellence” – five to be exact: North, South, East, Midwest, and West, based upon veteran population concentration, focus resources for staffing and look at relationships with local private hospitals. As well, outpatient clinics should be part of these COEs and we should develop best practices for better automation as part of this initiative. I would say these would be our Tier IA Veteran care facilities and there should be a determination as to their coverage areas.
4. Provide local alternatives for remote areas – we need to assess the remote areas where our veterans need care and coverage and look at developing a process and a system whereby their first line of healthcare can come from a local private hospital. Again, there would need to be a system in place to track these individuals. Along with this comes a very well-trained and responsive system of “Help Centers” that can address issues and resolve them for our vets, and I don’t mean “we will get back to you.”
5. Improve record-keeping – if the Obama administration was so adept at contacting voters they should be able to develop a better automation system for records and caring of our veterans. It is imperative that we are able to quickly and seamlessly transition health records of those who have served in uniform, regardless of Active Duty or Reserve Component, into the VA system. No more drop-offs into the abyss.
Not surprisingly, none of these things have been addressed within the VA. How many more veterans have to die before something is done? #vetlivesmatter.