Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Because my father has worked for the US Department of Veterans Affairs for some time (he is an HVAC/R technician at one of the many hospitals), I have paid some attention to news reports about the scandalous lack of care given to veterans by the very system that is meant to aid and support them. I have heard the complaints about the travesties of veterans waiting months or more for appointments and the lies told to try to hide the fact. And I agree that the situation is bad. I agree that the US is disserving those who served the nation and that it is entirely unworthy of them or of the nation to act thusly.

I do *not* agree, however, that the situation is entirely the fault of the VA.

After years of cuts to funding, years of cuts to services, years of cuts to the number of beds available, years of cuts to hiring, years of cuts to programs designed to encourage improvement, it should not be wondered at that the system put in place to serve veterans falters. When there are not people to process paperwork, there will be delays in processing it, and when there is no money to hire people, there will not be people working. When there are not facilities in which to treat people, they will not be treated, and when there is no money to pay for facilities, there will not be facilities. When there is no chance for advancement, people will not remain in their jobs, and when there is no money for raises or bonuses, there is no chance for advancement. And when there is no money, it is not the fault of the VA alone, for it is not the VA that determines how much money the VA receives. While it is the fault of the Department that its employees lied and hid the state of things, and those who are responsible should be taken to task for their misdeeds, it is also the fault of those who control the flow of money to and through the VA for creating the situation--and the US House is ultimately responsible for determining that flow, since it is from the House that bills about money must come (US Const., art. I, sec. 7).

Establishing fault does not provide for a solution in any event, and that solution is the thing that needs finding. And it is not to offer veterans vouchers, except in the short term while deeper systematic issues are resolved. It is not more cost-effective in the long term to give the care of those who were wounded in uniform to private industry--the reverse is likely to be true, given prevailing health care prices--and that it would be more efficient is questionable at best, given the treatment times already experienced by hospitals and clinics. It is not to throw our collective hands in the air and rattle off some stock phrase about "the damned government" and give up on the endeavor.

It is to accept that we may have to pay a little more to do what we damned well ought to do than we would prefer, and to pay it if it needs paying.

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