President Barack Obama signed a bill aimed at addressing failures in the VA system by giving many veterans the option of seeking care from private health providers. It calls for hiring more doctors to expand the VA’s capacity. It also carries a price tag of $16 billion.
The Congressional Budget Office says the package will add $10 billion to the federal budget deficit. We would like to think the money will be well spent wisely and frugally. But this is not a new problem. This bill once again confirms the old adage that in Washington, nothing succeeds like failure: Mismanagement and scandal? Here’s your lottery check.
It’s not just poor management and dishonesty that need to be eliminated at the VA. Many employees who brought problems to light have been punished for telling the truth. Last month, several VA whistleblowers told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee how they were penalized for uncovering poor performance. The Office of Special Counsel says it is investigating 67 cases of alleged retribution.
At the VA, it ought to be more dangerous to be incompetent than to expose incompetence. If the department makes that vital change, the money Congress and the president have provided should produce better and more timely care.