For more than two years, the Veterans Affairs department has struggled to deal with a long-buried crisis in its service to veterans, a systemic and widespread fraud that concealed long wait times at its hospitals and clinics.
Now, the length of time that veterans are forced to wait for initial medical care has long been an issue in the single-payer VA system. Both Barack Obama and John McCain made the lack of responsiveness at the VA a campaign issue all the way back in the 2008 presidential election. Obama appointed retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had a reputation for bucking bureaucracies and challenging established leadership, specifically to clean up the VA. Among the reforms adopted were incentives for improving wait times, including bonuses for executives who succeeded at making the VA competitive with private-sector providers.
Five years later, however, whistleblowers produced evidence that dozens of veterans had died while being denied access to care at the Phoenix VA. Evidence emerged that the wait-list fraud was not localized to one VA center but was standard operating procedure in much of the country. VA executives earned bonuses while veterans languished in medical limbo — and some of them perished in it, too. Obama sacked Shinseki, the only Cabinet official to resign under pressure from the president, and appointed Robert McDonald to clean up the VA.
The measure of how well that worked out came in McDonald’s shocking suggestion this week that wait times don’t matter in medical care. While discussing reforms with reporters, McDonald wondered why anyone worries about them at all. “When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?” he asked. “What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience? And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
So would many veterans. Unfortunately, they first have to board the actual ride to have that “experience,” and unlike at Disney’s grand facilities, veterans don’t come to the VA for their own amusement. For many, they only come when their health is in serious question, when time is of the essence for both accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
McDonald’s remarks amount to a white flag of surrender on veterans care at the VA. After years of increasing concern and anger at long wait times and unresponsive bureaucracy at the VA, McDonald wants everyone to just shrug it off. Rather than fix the problem, McDonald wants to stop measuring the failures, leaving veterans locked into a system it takes weeks and months to even access.
The difference. You get tired and cranky waiting in line at disney; you die waiting in line at the VA. Barry has decimated the military allowing his henchmen to follow lead.