Tags: va | veterans

Vets Need Better Options Than the VA

By Monday, 30 May 2016 11:13 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Here’s one federal employee who won’t be leaving “public service” to make millions in the private sector. Unless being the star in a dunk tank pays much better than I previously thought.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald entered the realm of PR legend when he told reporters Disneyland doesn’t measure wait time for its customers, so why should the VA?

One reason keeping a handle on dwell time in the VA queue might be a good idea is, as far as my research can determine, not one person has died waiting to ride the Indiana Jones Adventure (although Harrison Ford has visibly aged).

The worst that can happen to customers in a Disneyland wait line is the occasional case of measles, which President Trump assures us will be as scarce as Mexicans after he takes office.

Waiting lines at the VA are considerably more dangerous. In 2013 alone, 40 veterans died waiting for their appointment with a VA doctor.

Contrary to what McDonald would have us believe, wait time is very important for Disneyland. The mouse monitors wait time because unhappy customers won’t return and neither will their money. It’s common for amusement parks to put signs along the line estimating how much longer until the kids stop screaming: “Wait from this point approximately 30 minutes.”

The VA equivalent in its queue would be “From this point you’ll see Jesus before you see a VA doctor.” The only way waiting at the VA could be worse is if the lines were “managed” by TSA.

On second thought, this might be an improvement. At least the vets would get an X–ray while they move through the line, which is more than one can say for the VA.

In a perverse way customer disservice is an incentive for McDonald’s organization. Patients are entered on the cost part of the VA balance sheet. If they are happy with their experience, there’s a danger they might return and cost even more.

Disgruntled VA customers are often next found at the funeral parlor, which takes them off the balance sheet altogether.

Even if McDonald made reducing wait times a priority, the public couldn’t be sure the information was accurate. The VA is expert at the third type of lie: The statistic.

At Disneyland calculating when a customer’s wait begins is easy, the clock starts when the customer begins waiting.

That’s not how it works at the VA. Those numbers looked bad, so the standard was changed. Formerly the wait calculation began when an optimistic vet contacted the VA to make an appointment. Now the calculation starts when the VA gets around to returning his call.

Consequently the new stats allow McDonald to claim wait time has been reduced.

To get an idea of how well this works in the real world see my column on the vet who committed suicide waiting for a call back from a suicide “hotline” by clicking here.

One of the reasons McDonald is such a typical Obama administration functionary is he lives in a fantasy world, too. McDonald runs an organization that has been roasted in Congress and media for putting vets on waiting lists, lying about how long they’re on the list, covering up the vets that died waiting and refusing to discipline the employees responsible.

That alone makes wait time an issue for the rest of the country, vets and all.  But not for McDonald. He doesn’t have to wait for his medical care, so he doesn’t see why it’s such a big deal. Instead he says, “What we should be measuring is the veteran’s satisfaction. What really counts is how does the veteran feel about their encounter with the VA?”

Besides moving the emphasis from time, which is hard and fast, to satisfaction, which is nebulous, another advantage of this benchmark is satisfaction is not a metric one usually associates with the dead. Therefore, fewer complaints.

The Veterans Administration is obdurate, incompetent and arrogant. As Civil War Sec. of War Henry Halleck said in reference to the Army of the Potomac, which rarely moved under Gen. George McClellan’s command, “There is an immobility here that exceeds all that any man can conceive of. It requires the lever of Archimedes to move this inert mass.”

Unfortunately there is no way to fix the VA culture.

There is no civilian alternative to the Pentagon, but there is to the Veterans Administration.

It’s called the civilian healthcare system. The promise to our vets was the country would care for them when they needed care. But the care doesn’t have to come at the hands of a poorly motivated federal bureaucracy.

Let the vet choose his own doctor and Uncle Sam can pay the bill.

Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.

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Let the vet choose his own doctor and Uncle Sam can pay the bill.
va, veterans
Monday, 30 May 2016 11:13 AM
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