Abolish the VA… for starters

It’s become clear the Veterans Administration is incapable of meeting the mandate of “physician, heal thyself.”  It is time to dismantle the entire bureaucracy.  Instead of attempting to run hospitals, clinics and other services (something it is demonstrably incompetent and negligent in doing), it would be better for the Department of Defense to have a small administrative division whose sole purpose is to manage retiree healthcare payments that allow them to get care on the civilian market, where the quality is exponentially higher.

Indeed, the VA is Exhibit A when discussing the problems of government-run healthcare.  There is no accountability.  None.

Rima Nelson disappeared from public view after the St. Louis Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital she managed potentially exposed 1,800 patients to HIV, was closed twice for serious medical safety issues and ranked dead last in patient satisfaction.

But Nelson wasn’t fired. Her VA superiors hid her literally on the other side of the Earth in 2013 at the department’s only foreign facility, a seldom-used clinic inside the palatial U.S. Embassy in the Philippines capital city of Manila.

She resides in a government-provided condo and gets the same $160,000 salary she made in St. Louis, which allows her to live like royalty in a country where the average person makes only $2,500 a year.

This musical chairs game for incompetent or misbehaving executives is endemic within government service–and I’ve experienced it firsthand.  Civil Service rules make it so difficult to discipline or fire a bad employee that people simply swap problems, never putting in the enormous effort it takes to generate a system response that actually solved the issue (by terminating its employment).  In one of my last gigs for Uncle Sam, I had a GS-15 supervisor who routinely flouted all the rules and was abusive toward subordinates.  I attempted to upchannel the team’s concerns, but was largely ignored until said supervisor committed such an egregious foul that they finally had to take seriously what was being said.  After a command-directed investigation (no fun for anyone involved), this individual was removed from their leadership role… and transferred to a non-supervisory position with considerably less responsibility.  The kicker?  Under a crazy rule called “save pay,” he continued to draw a GS-15 salary, despite moving to a GS-12 billet.  So after all the extra headaches for those who were willing to jump through the Rube Goldberg machine to generate some accountability, the net result was this bad apple continued to draw the same amount of pay for doing even less work.

Nice incentive system you have there, Uncle Sam.  Don’t get me wrong: there are dedicated people in the employ of the Federal Government — I’ve met a number of them.  But I’m convinced they are far outnumbered by people who could never hope to command similar salaries in the private sector, due to a lack of talent, work ethic, integrity, or all of the above.  The system design subsidizes–even rewards–subpar performance.  And as the cases linked above show, it far too often protects malfeasance and criminal neglect, frequently going so far as to hide the offenders in out-of-the-way places, and retaliating against employees who point out systematic problems.

So consider carefully, America, just how much you want to be dependent upon these government bureaucrats and their mutual protection racket.  As the saying goes, anyone who has seen public housing should know that public healthcare isn’t a good idea.  And anyone who’s had dealings with the VA should know that government-run means third rate at best, compared to private sector options.  As much as I am absolutely opposed to Bernie Sanders’ agenda on all its particulars, he has said at least one wise thing I’m aware of: “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, don’t go to war.”  Our nation goes to war far too frivolously, and all too often tries to limit the bill to the actual fighting, rather than count the true cost of rebuilding the broken participants afterwards.

A final point: Americans have been conditioned to genuflect toward the military (a problem in itself).  “Thank you for your service” comes easily to peoples’ lips these days.

You want to thank veterans for their service?  Demand the government get out of the way and let them get the care they need from the best possible source — a provider they (not the government) choose in the private sector.  Even better — use the freedom veterans thought they were protecting for you to demand better of your alleged “public servants” all across government — not just the VA.  Hold officials accountable, including sending those who can’t or won’t provide value to the unemployment line where far too many veterans already languish.

Otherwise the American Idol act is just cheap feel-good talk.


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