Wasteful government spending is a funny thing, in that people almost always rail against it until their cause is on the receiving end. Such is the case of many veterans organizations as the latest veterans bill died in the senate after Democrats failed to garner enough support from Republicans.
I am a veteran, and a severely wounded one at that. With a disability rating of 100%, I have relied heavily on the VA after losing my right arm in Iraq. My opinions are not based on feel-good notions of helping veterans, but on actual experience as a wounded veteran navigating a bloated bureaucracy that considers me nothing more than a case file and the occasional squeaky wheel that needs to be greased.
If you think the VA is a model of health care that should be expanded, you’re either delusional or misinformed. The VA is a wasteful monstrosity that is plagued by delays, a lack of accountability, and bad policies all around. While I have encountered individuals in the VA who work diligently and effectively, they tend to be the exception, not the norm. In 2007 it took an investigation from a congressman before the VA gave me a new prosthetic arm. There were no real reasons for the months long delay that required me to patch my existing one with pieces of duct tape. I was wearing a new one in a week, made at a private practice 30 miles from my house. The problem was a bloated bureaucracy where people hid behind closed doors and weren’t held accountable. In fact, after the entire ordeal the department actually blamed me for not knowing “the system.” It was my fault my multiple phone calls, appointments, and requests for a prosthetic arm were not satisfied by their department. These were the same “experts” who asked me how to take apart my prosthetic arm because they were not sure how.
This is just one example of many since I was thrust into the system 2007. As countless other veterans can attest, my experiences are not unique. I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken with who claimed the VA killed their father/uncle/brother/grandfather/son/etc. One does not need to ask around to hear stories, a simple Google search will reveal VA employees rewarded with five figure bonuses for their efforts despite infectious diseases being spread in their facilities due to their poor policies and lackadaisical performance. It’s an environment where honor and integrity are proclaimed to be desired yet never achieved due to a lack of supervision. Problems are typically not fixed until something goes horribly wrong and draws unwanted attention. One does not need a study to see that our VA system is overtaxed, simply walk into any major facility during the middle of the day. It is standing room only. For many, the wait for appointments is months. A few minutes in the lobby of the facility will reveal their frustrations. There is no need to ask questions, simply stand there and listen.
Our political class, in their infinite wisdom, decided to rely on their number one tool for fixing problems and throw money at the issue. As if this inefficient, unsupervised bureaucracy were not taxed enough, they wanted to expand access to thousands of other veterans without service connected injuries. They apparently think the VA is run so efficiently and cost-effectively that its employees and healthcare providers are sitting around waiting for patients, and there isn’t a backlog of thousands. For those of us who experience the system firsthand, the thought of adding more people to an already overtaxed VA system is asinine. It’s the same logic that says if we add millions more to the healthcare system, wait times and costs will somehow go down. It’s an insane world where spending more money leads to an increase in savings, and adding more people to an overtaxed system will lead to decreased wait times and better care.
I get it, veterans organizations, your job is to stick up for veterans and lobby on our behalf. As a veteran, I’m grateful for all that you have done. But just once I want to see a veterans organization say, instead of throwing good money after bad, lets gut this terrible bureaucracy so that it actually functions, and start holding people personally accountable so that future veterans get the care that they deserve.
Is that really too much to ask?