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Lowry: The VA's socialist paradise

Posted: May 25, 2014 - 1:38pm

For the left, the Department of Veterans Affairs is how health care is ideally supposed to work. No insurance companies, no private doctors, no competition — just the government and the patient.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has held up the VA as a model for the entire country. The Washington Monthly ran a famous article in 2005 arguing that the VA was leading the way for U.S. health care. The socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, is such a reflexive defender that in an instantly notorious interview on CNN he pooh-poohed the burgeoning scandal that may involve fatalities with the undeniable observation that “people die every day.”

The VA is an island of socialism in American health care. It generally provides adequate care — to a limited universe of people and for only certain conditions — but has long been plagued by scandal. It is perhaps the worst bureaucracy in the federal government. As with all such single-payer-type systems, the cost of the notionally free health care is in the rationing, in this case the wait times that have had desperately ill vets hung out to dry for months.

The usual Obamacare excuses don’t apply here. The existence of the VA isn’t politically controversial. No one is trying to repeal it, or “sabotage” it. What we’re seeing is simply unaccountable bureaucracy in action.

When the bench mark was created for VA facilities to get vets appointments within 14 days, meeting the goal was easy: All it took was logging appointments dishonestly to hide the wait time. This is how poorly performing government bureaucracies have met goals from time immemorial; it’s why, on a much more vast and monstrous scale, Soviet five-year plans were always such runaway successes on paper.

The VA system worked for everyone but the patients — and the whistle-blowers. The daughter-in-law of a Navy vet in Phoenix who died after never getting follow-up for his “urgent” case was told, in lines that perfectly capture the spirit of socialized medicine: “It’s a seven-month waiting list. And you’re gonna have to have patience.”

But the bureaucracy acted with alacrity when its reporting scheme was at risk. In St. Louis, the former chief of psychiatry says he was put under administrative investigation when he complained about wait lists. A whistle-blower who worked in Fort Collins, Colo., alleges that she and a colleague were transferred when they refused to hide wait times.

So far, the VA affair is running the usual course of Obama administration scandals, with the requisite denial and lack of accountability. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has referred to the incidents as “isolated cases” (even though 26 facilities are now under investigation). No one has been fired. One of Shinseki’s deputies, Dr. Robert Petzel, resigned, but was scheduled to retire this year anyway. It was an appropriately Potemkin departure in a scandal involving Potemkin waiting lists.

The White House has reverted to its default position of maintaining that it doesn’t know much about what’s happening in the vast government it always wants to make bigger. Spokesman Jay Carney seemed to suggest the other day that the president first heard about the scandal from a CNN report. Pity the president having to wait for the coverage of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to die down before learning about malfeasance at his own VA.

Of course, the problem with wait times and the trustworthiness of the VA’s own reporting wasn’t news. The Government Accountability Office has been warning of it since 2000. It headlined a report published in December 2012, “VA HEALTH CARE: Reliability of Reported Outpatient Medical Appointment Wait Times and Scheduling Oversight Need Improvement.”

The VA obviously isn’t going anywhere, but the scandal should be the occasion for making it more transparent and accountable and giving vets more choices. As of now, it represents a case study in how a bureaucracy tends to its own interests, even at the expense of veterans relying on it for matters of life and death.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 05/26/14 - 08:10 pm
1
1
Mistaken

Mr.Lowry - There are private doctors used by the V.A. health system.If you have insurance.The V.A. files health insurance claims. Your V.A. health care after the age of 65 .Your Medicare is used.Your service connected disability is the only treatment that is not claimed on some form of insurance.I do believe.This change has been the V.A. practice since the mid 1980's.One can not solely blame the V.A.'s woes on Obama.A major problem with the V.A. is that they talk change,but must follow the same rules.So! The wheels turn very slow,and the result is. Things remain the same. The statement of No insurance,No private doctors,or No competition is just not a factual statement.

leewaytooo
1993
Points
leewaytooo 05/27/14 - 04:22 am
2
1
lowwry equals cheny... just

lowwry equals cheny...

just another repuke spouting lies.

the people in the VA that created this mess are

type AH's.. and most likely vote repuke. they

just want their promotion/profit off of the misery of

anyone else other than themselves.

cheapersmokes
1015
Points
cheapersmokes 05/27/14 - 05:01 am
2
1
VA

This is no a political party issue since both parties are equally to blame for this mess and let's also throw in the unions for protecting the deadbeats also.

The large Mpls VAMC has what had to be the worst Director in the system ever but he knew how to cover up and make it look good on paper and received many awards from the VA. Little did I know that he was also getting a big bonus payment for doing so.

They need to give General Skinseki total authority to fire and remove people who aren't performing and also cancel all bonuses immediately. If they complain then they should submit their resignation. Give him 3 months time to straighten out all problems or he is also gone.

Carver
1133
Points
Carver 05/27/14 - 10:28 am
0
0
Bingo . . !

cheapersmokes,

Well said . . .

santini
81
Points
santini 05/27/14 - 12:36 pm
0
1
VA WOES

Cheapersmoke has it right. The House of Represenatives, on a bi-partisan basis, passed a bill to give the VA director the authority to remove non-peromers and withhold bonuses. Unfortunately, it has been held up, as usual, in the Democrat controlled Senate. This should not be a partisan issue. However, since the Democrats are beholding to public service unions in a big way, it will probably not pass. Party seems to trump reform. You might want to call Senator Begich and ask him to have his leadership allow this bill to come to a vote.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 05/27/14 - 09:09 pm
3
0
the facts

Mr.Lowry - Your second sentence of the first paragraph is wrong.You needed to do more research on this. I got a thumbs down on my comment.Which happens to be the honest facts.Since I was not parroting Beck,Limbaugh ,or Rove.My facts of the matter have to be wrong. Right? I am a 100% total ,and permanently disabled veteran.I know. How the V.A. works.I have dealt with them since 1970. Sir! You need to start telling the whole story.Not the partisan bias half facts You typically scribe.

cheapersmokes
1015
Points
cheapersmokes 05/28/14 - 01:26 am
2
0
Outside providers at the VA

Raoulduke, While your correct in stating that they do refer people to outside providers. This usually doesn't last due to the length of time it takes for them to get payments from the VA. The VAMC authorized me to have built a wooden ramp into my home when I was confined to a wheelchair. It took the contractor over one year to get paid for his materials and labor. The VA has many outstanding caregivers who only want to do what is best for our veterans but the dead wood types are making them all look like losers!

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 05/29/14 - 08:18 pm
0
0
Outside providers

Cheapersmokes - Sounds like you had a construction contract payment slow down. I was referring to the specialty medical clinics.Used by the V.A. on a regular basis.Then if you have any medical insurance.The V.A. files claims to your insurance company. You are also correct about the dead wood types making them all look bad. Because I have found the great majority of the folks at the V.A.. Really care.

KenaiKardinal88
474
Points
KenaiKardinal88 05/31/14 - 07:53 am
1
2
VA = Obamacare

The VA has not functioned well for a long time. Now, with socialists like Obama in charge, its suffered even more.

This year all of us with jobs will pay an additional Obamacare tax - for worse and more expensive socialized health care.

The country is in real trouble. The best thing we can do as Alaskans is get rid of that mean-spirited liberal Democrat Mark Begich, who was a key vote for Obamacare.

Suss
3894
Points
Suss 06/03/14 - 10:35 am
5
1
Begich helped Vets

Senator Begich has pushed through more reforms to Alaskan Veteran health care. VA care is a must for many in Alaska
and I thank Sen. Begich for this improvement.

Talk to your local friendly neighborhood
Vet and ask them about the VA health care in Alaska.

We as Vets should all be very proud of our Senator's efforts.

The national VA care is a disgrace for ineptitude and the lack of funding that was blocked by Congress, not because Begich wasn't fighting for the Vets!

cheapersmokes
1015
Points
cheapersmokes 06/01/14 - 09:51 am
2
2
Vets health care!

I will not get into any names calling or stupid comments like the usual Repukes or Democraps like so many love to use. The problems with the VA go back and on for decades they did not happen overnight like some seem to think. All we saw on TV was some member of Congress with their chest puffed out calling for General Shinseki's resignation just to they could get some face time to boost their reelection campaign. I am sure all members of Congress at some time or another have voted to help the Veterans out but on the really important votes they are told to support the party line or forget ever getting any help in passing a bill of their own. The Mpls VA hospital is considered one of the very best in the country with 17 operating rooms going 24 hours a day with veterans coming here from all over the country to get a 2nd opinion and surgery if needed. I have a friend in Wisconsin who was finally granted service connected benefits due to Agent Orange exposure in Viet Nam. He has cancer and is not being given any treatment for it. He has asked many times for a referral to a specialized cancer treatment facility but they haven't granted it yet and truthfully they are waiting for him to die so his payments can stop also. This VA has a new Director and everything has improved very much including employee morale but the old one was a sleazeball and I am sure they will find many problems like those going on at the others if and when they look at the records.

The problems while great are actually minor compared on what is soon to come out on their Benefits and Claims processes. They have went so far as to add false records into my file to deny my claim and the amount owed has surpassed $250,000 and rising every month not including interest. I am a little smarter than the average veteran and I have the proof to expose this and hold many people responsible and this is just one case. Once the Associated Press gets ahold of it and then others come forward they are going to have to have a major housecleaning.

jford
3354
Points
jford 06/04/14 - 02:03 am
2
0
Re: name calling and stupid comments

Just to be clear.

Is calling the President Obummer a case of name calling or was that a case of a stupid comment?

Speaking of the vets and the VA, it was the current Republicans in Congress who just refused to fund adequate veterans care. The Democrats introduced the legislation to increase funding to provide better care and the Republicans filibustered the legislation.

Don't anyone pretend its a case of both sides doing the same, the evident history doesn't bear it out.

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