Georgia Voices: Despite $16B bill for VA, reforms still needed
by The Augusta Chronicle
August 26, 2014 04:00 AM | 2116 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The $16-plus-billion emergency fix for the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs is designed to do a lot of things.

It is intended to help hire more doctors and nurses, build more VA facilities and make it easier for veterans to get health care from non-VA providers.

What it won’t do is start to reform a culture that rewards liars, punishes whistleblowers and shields itself from scrutiny with a bureaucratic brick wall.

That would require the ability to quickly and easily fire bad employees, which this recently approved bill doesn’t do.

“Throwing money at the VA won’t solve their problem,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) “A fundamental change in culture and real leadership from the president on down is the only way to provide the quality, timely care our veterans deserve.”

The media have ballyhooed provisions enabling the VA secretary to immediately terminate senior executives — an authority new Secretary Bob McDonald should have anyway. But the measure signed recently by President Obama does nothing to streamline the termination process for the VA’s rank-and-file civil service employees.

As many as 1,000 veterans may have died while languishing on secret waiting lists at VA facilities nationwide, including in Augusta. Considering the depth and breadth of the scandal, one would assume at least some mid- to low-level employees should also be held to account.

After all, the falsified and omitted records and coverups that led to the preventable veteran deaths — and $100 million in pay bonuses for VA administrators over a three-year period — clearly bear the fingerprints of federal employees at multiple pay grades.

Reforming the VA requires overhauling its employee culture, from the top down and the bottom up.

If lawmakers are serious about reform, they should change the way government employees are evaluated, promoted and disciplined. And they should start at the VA, where decisions by government workers literally can be a matter of life and death.

Otherwise, the $16 billion VA bill is nothing but a reward for failure, and it’s only a matter of time before the next scandal arises.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Vet at a loss
August 27, 2014
Tossing more money into VA will not do a thing to improve service.

First off get a director with a pair who will actually visit VA hospitals and dig into their problems.

Second fire the chair warmers and get people who will do an honest days work.

It should not take 4 hours for VA to process your ID card then tell you it will be mailed to you.

I sent them 85 pages of medical documents in April, in June they sent me a letter requesting the same documents, I called them and gee they found them in my file. Now yesterday I got a letter stating they were still processing my claim.

How hard can it be to see that I am already drawing a disability and look at the documents to see I am now diabetic and adjust my disability?

I just got a new letter this morning saying I need to send documentation that my blood sugar is high and has been. Duh, what do they think the 85 pages of documents are. They have 5 years of blood test results and letters from 2 doctors. So now I have to spend a few hours on the phone trying to get a real person who will look up my records so they can see they have all the info.

And our President thinks his government can run a national health care system, Hell they have one and cannot make ot work its called VA.
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