Tags: Healthcare Reform | John McCain | VA Scandal | Care | Congress | Private

Veterans Deserve Private Care

Image: Veterans Deserve Private Care
Skye McDougall of the VA (AP) 

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Friday, 12 Feb 2016 08:11 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Almost two years ago the Veterans Administration scandal broke.

Officials in the Phoenix VA hospital had been cooking the books, carrying veterans waiting for treatment on secret wait lists, and concealing the fact that many vets were waiting months or even years for treatment.

Many of those veterans died while waiting for appointments and medical care.

We were assured that there would be a reckoning.

The secretary of Veterans Affairs resigned. Congress swung into action. Laws were passed. VA officials were “sacked” and changes we were told were in the offing.

It has been nearly two years, and if you want to know how false any expectation of positive movement was, you need only look at the strange case of Ms. Skye McDougall.

Ms. McDougall is a senior official with the VA. At the time the scandal over wait times exploded in 2014 she was the regional director for VA facilities in Southern California.

As a senior VA official she was called upon to testify before Congress regarding the revelations concerning wait times and falsified data.

During her sworn testimony Ms. McDougall asserted that the average wait time for veterans to be seen by a physician in a VA hospital was four days. It was, in fact 48 days.

Ms. McDougall was, not surprisingly, accused by members of Congress of having provided false testimony. Ms. McDougall denied any wrongdoing but provided no coherent explanation as to the basis for her claim that average wait times were four days when they were 10 times as long.

Ms. McDougall remains in the employ of the Veterans Administration. Late last year the VA announced that they were going to make her head of the southwest region of its operations.

That would have put her in charge of a large number of hospitals, including the one in Phoenix at the epicenter of the wait time scandal she attempted to cover-up.

Outrage on Capitol Hill killed that idea. In the face of determined opposition from a number of legislators, including Sen. John McCain, the VA announced Ms. McDougall would not be given the position.

Then they announced that instead she would be made regional director of the South Central VA Health Care Network, which serves a veteran population of 1.8 million in an eight-state region that includes Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

As of this writing, this remains the VA’s intention.

Lest you think that Ms. McDougall’s case is an aberration, consider these other recent developments.

Two senior VA officials who were suspended from duty and investigated for their role in the scandal regarding wait times were recently returned to duty. Neither man was subjected to any disciplinary action.

During the time of their suspension, which lasted 19 months, they drew full pay and benefits. In short, their punishment for their involvement in the wait time scandal was to receive 19 months of paid vacation at taxpayer expense.

Meanwhile wait times at VA hospitals have actually increased dramatically.

In many places it now takes up to 50 percent longer than it did before the scandal broke for a veteran to see a doctor. And accusations have arisen anew that the VA is manipulating data or in some cases outright falsifying data in an effort to make it appear that veterans are receiving care more rapidly than they are.

This doesn’t do anything to alleviate the suffering of vets waiting months to be seen by a doctor, but it makes the numbers that VA releases to the public appear more positive.

The mammoth bureaucracy in the Veterans Administration remains impervious to change.

Despite public scrutiny and intense pressure, it is obviously more important for the VA to find a senior position for an administrator who lied under oath to Congress than it is to make meaningful change and improve the care it provides to the nation’s veterans.

Changes to the technical details of how numbers are tabulated and reported, continue to take precedence over caring for veterans.

In the aftermath of the wait time scandal Congress passed legislation authorizing the issuance of Choice cards to vets. The idea was simple. If a veteran had to wait longer than 30 days for care he or she should be able to see a private physician at taxpayer expense.

The legislation was, unfortunately, crippled by regulatory provisions that make it much harder than it needs to be for veterans to actually use the Choice card and get medical care.

It’s time to revisit the idea of private care for veterans. It’s time, at a minimum, to loosen up the provisions regarding the use of the Choice card and make it significantly easier for veterans to punch out of a broken system and get the care they need.

The VA, no matter what its top brass may think, does not exist to provide perpetual employment for bureaucrats. It exists to serve the men and women who have put their lives on the line for this country.

Charles S. Faddis, president of Orion Strategic Services, LLC, is a former CIA operations officer with 20 years of experience in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. He is the senior intelligence editor for AND Magazine and a contributor to a wide variety of counterterrorism and homeland security journals. His nonfiction works include "Operation Hotel California," a history of the actions of his team inside Iraq from 2002 to 2003. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.




 

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CharlesFaddis
It’s time to revisit the idea of private care for veterans. The VA, no matter what its top brass may think, does not exist to provide employment for bureaucrats. It exists to serve the men and women who have put their lives on the line for this country.
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2016-11-12
Friday, 12 Feb 2016 08:11 AM
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