American veterans deserve better health care

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When it comes to health care for veterans who have fought around the world defending our freedoms, it is our duty to provide the best treatment and the best resources in a timely manner. Anything less than that is nothing short of failure.  President Obama’s Department of Veterans Affairs is failing our veterans with dozens dying before receiving necessary medical care.

In Arizona, the Phoenix Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System is under fire[1] for covering up evidence that links the deaths of veterans to prolonged waits for necessary medical care. Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, says his staff has proof the Phoenix VA system secretly keeps two sets of records in order to hide information about prolonged waits that veterans must endure for treatment.

“It appears as though there could be as many as 40 veterans whose deaths could be related to delays in care,” said Miller during a hearing on Wednesday. Rep. Miller’s revelations follow VA whistleblower reports that raised red flags about VA’s record-keeping practices, as well as veterans’ deaths and mismanagement.

One doctor who retired from the Phoenix VA Medical Center last year sent a letter to the Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney, among others, claiming the Phoenix system is afflicted with “gross mismanagement of VA resources and criminal misconduct” that resulted in “systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths.”

“Possible wrongful deaths.”  Welcome to Obama’s VA.

There are several lessons to be drawn from the VA problems in Phoenix; the least of which being that the federal government isn’t optimized for administering health care. Bureaucracies don’t run like private markets do. In one, misconduct, fraud, and corruption are inherently discouraged by criminal prosecution, fines and prison. In the other, mismanagement, secrecy, and the concealment of failure is rarely deterred or detected. It’s not difficult to figure out which is which.

The current problems at VA demand reform and involve more than just medical care. Nearly 600,000 veterans await a decision on their disability claims.  Worse yet, VA data suggests that the backlog of claims more than 125 days old has fallen because of suspect denials.  In Obama’s VA, the number of appeals following a denial of benefits has soared to more than 274,000, leaving those veterans waiting more than 400 more days to have their disability claims reviewed.

VA health care is available only to a fraction of veterans and is not an entitlement; it is an earned benefit provided to those who were wounded or otherwise disabled during their time in uniform.  They deserve better than what Obama is delivering.