By Rees Lloyd
CBS' "60 Minutes" broadcast a long-awaited segment on its January 3, 2010, program exposing the failures of the VA bureaucracy to timely, effectively, and competently, process applications of the nation's veterans for health and disability care.
Please see the program at 60 Minutes
The "60 Minutes" broadcast evidences what has been known to veterans and veterans services organizations (VSO's) for many years -- The VA's health-care-by-government-bureaucracy system, no matter its "good intentions," is "broken."
Indeed,"60 Minutes" exposed delays of ten months to even have an application reviewed; delays of four (4) years if a veteran disagrees and appeals from the VA's decision on an application; snafues in governmental record-keeping which prevents vets from proving up claims; and, among other things, a backlog of over 1,000,000 unprocessed applications.
In short, delay, delay, delay -- until many claims are resolved by the death of the veteran during the government's processing (or failure to process) the applications.
The "60 Minutes" investigation is a powerful indictment, even it did not include such VA scandals in health care delivery like the infecting of thousands of veterans by using unclean instruments in colonoscopies, or the scandal of the release of millions of private medical records of veterans through sheer bureaucratic incompetence (costing the VA $20-million in a lawsuit settlement).
But notwithstanding those omissions, what "60 Minutes" did confirm is that government-controlled health and disability care in the VA is both a failure, and a disgrace.
Every American who has become belatedly aware of the failures of VA by way of the "60 Minutes" exposures should be concerned. Not only because of the disgraceful failure to fulfill the promises made to veterans of health and disability care in consideration for their service under arms in defense of America, but because every American is now to have national socialized health care imposed on them and their families by the same politicians and bureaucrats who have so manifestly failed to competently deliver timely, effective, and competent health and disability services through benevolently-intended government-controlled VA care.
I have to emphasize these points: I do not question the "good intentions" of the bureaucrats at VA who have so utterly failed. Nor do I think that the the overwhelming majority of them are other than sincere and want the VA delivery system to timely, effectively, and competently care for veterans. Indeed, many if not most of them are veterans.
The lesson of the failure of government-controlled VA care is not that "bad" people are running it, but rather the lesson is that the failure is in the nature of the beast itself, i.e., government-control itself of the delivery of health and disability services.
The failure of VA care is systemic because the very system, i.e, government bureaucratic decision-making as to who gets what care and when, cannot deliver what is so benevolently-intended. Good intentions do not translate in timely, effective, and competent performance, of the kind that has made the non-governmental health care system in the U.S., despite its imperfections, the envy of the world. Thoughtful, careful, conservative reformation of those imperfections is needed; radical transformation of the American system is not.
First things first: The nation has a moral obligation to fulfill its promises to its veterans to provide health and disability services through the VA. Allow me to suggest that instead of rushing to implement the 2,000-plus page government-controlled national socialist health care delivery system generally known as Obamacare, Congress, and Obama, Himself, should first fix the disgraceful failures of the VA system of government-controlled health and disability services to veterans, and evidence -- if possible -- that the government has at least the ability to manage that much smaller aspect of national health care.
Moveover, if the government cannot effectively and competently provide health and disability services to veterans through government-controlled VA care, some 1-million of whose applications are backlogged and still unprocessed at this time, then the government has no business with great hubris taking over, transforming, nationalizing, and socializing-by-new-bureaucracies, the delivery of health and disability services needed by 300-million Americans.
[Rees Lloyd, a longtime civil rights attorney, is an activist in veterans affairs.]
Monday, January 04, 2010
Posted by Lew Waters at 5:56 PM