Scapegoats Won't Cure VA's Ills
by Clarence Page
Of all the scandals and pseudo-scandals of which President Barack Obama has been accused, the
One, health care -- including VA health care -- was the signature issue of his election and re-election.
Two, the VA, for all its flaws, also is held up as a model by leading liberals and progressives of how effectively a gigantic government program can deliver quality health care directly to patients without passing through private providers or insurance companies.
That's mostly true. In April, for example, the independent American Customer Satisfaction Index found VA patient satisfaction to be 84 percent for in-patient care and 82 percent for outpatient. That's as high or slightly higher than the survey found for civilian hospitals for the third year in a row -- and considerably higher than the survey's 66 percent satisfaction rate for federal agencies in general.
But the current scandal is not found in the VA's care as much as in the hurdles veterans have faced as they try to enter the system to receive that care. Most alarming are reports, revealed to
Three, Team Obama can't say that the president wasn't warned, although
On Monday (
Indeed it is not. Conservatives pounced on a memo reported by the
Such are the problems that have turned into a major investigation of more than 25 VA facilities. Some Republicans have ballyhooed that memo as a political gotcha against Team Obama, while conveniently downplaying how much the problem also went unaddressed by Team Bush.
What is to be done? Calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a decorated veteran who lost part of a foot in the Vietnam War, to resign sound more like scapegoating -- a familiar Washington ritual -- than problem solving.
You could see that reflex at work in the administration's unimpressive announcement that Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA's undersecretary for health, resigned, even though he was about to retire in less than a month anyway.
"We don't need the VA to find a scapegoat," as a statement released by the Iraq and
Indeed, step one must be for the Obama administration to figure out what happened in Phoenix and other facilities, hold the right people accountable and do whatever it can to help veterans currently waiting for services.
That common-sense idea would take a giant step toward fulfilling the too-often broken promises that we, a grateful nation, make to veterans for their service. Everyone in
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"Scapegoats Won't Cure VA's Ills"