A damning new internal report that the Department of Veterans Affairs misspends $6 billion annually is more proof of the agency's continuing failure to deliver reliable healthcare to military service members in need, two veterans advocates told Newsmax TV
"We've got a big problem here," Bruce Landsberg, president of the Coalition to End Veteran Suicide, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner in a panel discussion with Capt. Dennis Davis, a U.S. Air Force reservist and Iraq-Afghanistan veteran seeking treatment for his own post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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In a memo to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the agency's chief of procurement described "lawlessness and chaos" and "gross mismanagement" as routine, with the VA violating federal rules to pay for medical care and supplies without competitive bidding, The Washington Post
The memo follows a report in April that patient wait times at VA facilities have not declined
despite an emergency infusion of $16 billion, a push to get more veterans into private-sector care, and the personnel shakeup that brought McDonald into office.
"They own this," Davis said of the current VA leadership and the latest bad news.
The VA was rocked by reports beginning last spring that dozens of veterans died waiting for care and that military hospitals were using two sets of paperwork, official and unofficial, to conceal the backlogs.
Davis and Landsberg both said that one year later, despite all the activity, a group of entrenched senior-level VA managers seem to have escaped accountability for the agency's spectacular failures.
"They work harder to collect their bonuses and to hide the issues than they do to actually follow the rules," said Davis. "They're completely unaccountable and they need to be held accountable."
Landsberg, the father of Neil Landsberg, a former Air Force captain who committed suicide in 2013 waiting for VA care, said there are "multiple challenges" facing the agency in the post 9/11 era.
"Our system for dealing with the number of vets that are returning from the wars is inadequate," he said, "and I don't think the VA can do it by themselves.
"In fact, many, if not the majority of vets are oftentimes being treated by civilian facilities," said Landsberg, whose son was treated for PTSD at two civilian hospitals. "The civilian facilities had no ability to cope with somebody in Neil's situation and yet they are being paid by the VA or private insurance companies in offering substandard treatments.
"So we've got a big problem here," he said, "and I agree with Dennis: There needs to be a bit more accountability than what we're seeing. And it goes beyond just the head of the VA. You need to be looking quite seriously at senior management."
Davis said Congress needs to pass legislation allowing McDonald to bypass personnel rules that shield high-ranking career VA employees so he can fire the senior managers at the root of the problem.
He said the bill in question, H.R. 1994, has broad bipartisan support in the House, a companion bill in the Senate, and backing from multiple veterans rights organizations.
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