In the limelight once again: the Veterans Administration sure takes some heat.
It’s usually one step forward, two steps back for the agency. They make progress with the Department of Defense on interoperability as EHR-using frontrunners — and doing it better than some have — only to be criticized by federal oversight agencies for not getting it right fast enough.
With the latest scandal, it’s more like ten steps back. Way back. Trust has been shattered.
When the scandal over widespread mismanagement broke last week, the issue was culpability. The media seemed to focus on “the government lied.” The VA said they are taking care of vets, but they’re not. Everyone wanted to know: is this true? Did they lie?
Well, yes they did. It was discovered in an emergency interim report just days later. Guilty as charged.
The focus now begins to shift from Did They Do It to Exactly Who Did It? That seems to have fallen on the shoulders of Eric Shinseki, who resigned as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department on Friday, key news outlets report. After all, he is the top man in the agency. The buck has to stop somewhere.
What I wonder, though, is will the question soon turn to the most needful of all: Why?
Why did this mismanagement take place? Why did VA employees feel they should fudge the schedule?
Some are saying it’s due to an unrealistic goal Shinseki established when he came in guns blazing, hoping to straighten out problems troubling the VA. He was invested, after all, as a decorated war veteran himself.
Some—including the Obama Administration and veterans’ groups have said money could fix what’s wrong.
Other insiders report the funding is plentiful enough to provide good care, even against the backdrop of those insisting the VA is short on resources.
Lastly, the argument turned political earlier this week, being held out as a sign of how terribly wrong a single-payer system can go.
Still. Despite all of the noise, ruckus, disturbing findings, finger-pointing, who will step up with a solution to providing better care?
The mismanagement of appointments is only a reflection of something much more insidious and maybe even insurmountable. Congressional committees, in fact, have dabbled in this question over the past year, to no avail.
In the meantime, the nation’s wounded warriors and dedicated patriots — our veterans of war — should be made a top priority, for healthcare and every other need they may have.
It’s the least the country can do.