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Congress Asleep At The Switch On Shameful Neglect of VA Care
Townhall.com ^ | May 21, 2014 | Donald Lambro

Posted on 05/21/2014 7:43:26 AM PDT by Kaslin

WASHINGTON - The scandal that has exploded in the government's veterans hospitals runs a lot deeper than the issue of long waits for those seeking medical care.

And it's been going on for a great deal longer, too, as a mountain of Government Accountability Office audits can attest over many decades: Countless reports of medical mistreatment; dangerously lengthy delays for ill veterans seeking care; shocking mortality rates when compared to private sector hospitals for similar surgeries; old, rundown facilities; and aged, broken medical equipment.

These and other problems in the VA's vast bureaucracy have been exposed in a sea of reports now gathering dust in congressional oversight committees that have failed to effectively address their findings.

Lawmakers at Senate hearings last week were beating their breasts over reports of veterans facing long treatment delays that have resulted in numerous deaths. We still do not know how many because of recent stories that the real numbers have been covered up.

Still, the fact remains that Congress has not done its job to see that VA programs, staffing, facilities and equipment are adequately funded and reforms enacted across the entire VA landscape. It's been asleep at the switch.

Nor has the Obama administration done anywhere near the due diligence needed to see that VA has the resources to adequately care for the thousands of soldiers returning home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But the tragedy of this latest VA scandal is that we keep making the same mistakes over and over again, and never learn from them.

Let's go back seven years ago when Washington Post reporters -- after exposing shockingly shabby, unhealthy conditions at Walter Reed Hospital -- found many of the same problems existed throughout the VA's organization.

On March 5, 2007, reporters Anne Hull and Dana Priest told the story of 70-year-old Ray Oliva whose "own VA hospital....was a mess.

The [hospital] gown he wore was torn. The wheelchairs were old and broken."

"It is not just Walter Reed," he told them. "The VA hospitals are not good either except for the staff who work so hard."

The veterans in his VA facility, he said, "had to ask for beds that had good mattresses instead of broken and old."

"I sat with guys who'd served in 'Nam," Oliva said. "We had terrible problems with the VA. But we were all so powerless to do anything about them."

"Across the country, some military quarters for wounded outpatients are in bad shape, according to interviews, GAO reports and transcripts of congressional testimony," Hull and Priest reported at the time.

"Among the most aggrieved are veterans who have lived with the open secret of substandard, underfunded care in the 154 VA hospitals and hundreds of community health centers around the country," they said.

Now, veterans are coming forth yet again, telling horror stories of lengthy delays for time-sensitive treatment, and reports that for too many that treatment has come too late.

I recall a more shocking situation when I was writing about GAO investigations in the 1970s and 1980s that told of higher than normal fatality rates in VA hospitals.

Anyone who thinks this problem has been fixed should read a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in December, 2007. The grim title of this report, by a team of medical specialists, says it all:

"Reducing Avoidable Deaths Among American Veterans: Directing Private-Sector Surgical Care To High-Performance Hospitals."

What this study recommended was simply letting our veterans have their surgery done at top private hospitals which would not only give them better, and more timely medical care, but, in many cases, save lives, too.

The study focused on 14 high-risk surgical procedures such as coronary bypass or carotid artery operations, and its findings were striking.

If these patients "had been directed to historically high-volume centers for their procedures, expected mortality would have decreased by 6.7 percent... potentially saving 376 lives" over the two-year period of the study.

"Directing private-sector care to medical centers with a history of low risk-adjusted mortality would have decreased expected mortality by 10.1 percent," potentially saving 584 lives.

In either case, the study concluded that the VA "should consider focusing quality improvement efforts" on the care that veterans receive in the private sector, "particularly for the high mortality procedures" that veterans often undergo as they age.

The study added that VA hospitals have "a commitment to provide safe, high-quality care to its enrolled population. One effective mechanism to meet this obligation is to help ensure the quality of care provided to veterans outside of [VA hospital] walls."

But there could be far more sweeping solutions to VA's continuing failures within the confines of this study. Let our veterans choose which hospitals they want to entrust with their care, perhaps under a voucher system financed by the government.

I once put this idea to Colin Powell during an interview for American Legion Magazine not too long after he had retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell told me that our veterans, who may have no other option but to go to VA hospitals, should be given the freedom to choose other medical institutions for needed surgery or other treatment.

The implicit proposal in the 2007 study in the American Journal of Public Health to let veterans have this choice deserves to be taken up in Congress. But probably not without a fight.

A note at the end the study said: "The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Government."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government
KEYWORDS: congress; vascandals; veterans

1 posted on 05/21/2014 7:43:26 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

In Maine, Vets are complaining about the new policy of prescribing drugs first, and then maybe test. Great for the drug companies, not so good for the Vets.


2 posted on 05/21/2014 7:47:39 AM PDT by The_Republic_Of_Maine (Be kept informed on Maine's secession, sign up at freemaine@hushmail.com)
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To: Kaslin

Congress? Congress?

While Congress may have some oversight, these Federal Institutions are administered by the EXECUTIVE.

DON’T SHIFT THE BLAME FROM THE PRICKS WHO WERE IN CHARGE.


3 posted on 05/21/2014 7:50:36 AM PDT by LucianOfSamasota (Tanstaafl - its not just for breakfast anymore...)
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To: Kaslin

hang them all . .


4 posted on 05/21/2014 7:52:20 AM PDT by ▀udda▀udd (>> F U B O << "What the hell kind of country is this if I can only hate a man if he's white?")
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To: The_Republic_Of_Maine

Let’s just take the eighty billion that the VA gets...shut down the operation...and use the funding to buy each qualified vet a GS-health insurance policy. The rest of the stuff the VA does is null and worthless. We could probably save money and hassle by letting the vets use local medical care of a normal variety. If they aren’t happy...they can shop around to find another doctor or clinic. I don’t see GS workers grumbling about their packaged care.


5 posted on 05/21/2014 7:52:37 AM PDT by pepsionice
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To: Kaslin

Gee, I wonder how many clean mattresses that necklace could have bought.

6 posted on 05/21/2014 7:53:07 AM PDT by Fido969 (What's sad is most)
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To: Kaslin

If government’s veterans hospitals are doing the same thing how high up in the Obama Admin are the directions coming from


7 posted on 05/21/2014 7:54:01 AM PDT by molson209 (Blank)
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To: Kaslin

This has always been about maintaining another govt bureaucracy, where and when the private sector medical solutions were the answer.


8 posted on 05/21/2014 7:56:01 AM PDT by George from New England (escaped CT in 2006, now living north of Tampa)
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To: Fido969

THAT “necklace” looks like a jumbled mess of my grandmother’s old jewelry


9 posted on 05/21/2014 7:56:22 AM PDT by goodnesswins (R.I.P. Doherty, Smith, Stevens, Woods.)
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To: Kaslin

It almost makes it look as if the government doesn’t even know how to run a healthcare program efficiently and effectively!


10 posted on 05/21/2014 7:58:06 AM PDT by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: Kaslin

Meanwhile the SNAP program continues to grow.


11 posted on 05/21/2014 7:58:10 AM PDT by mosaicwolf (Strength and Honor)
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To: Kaslin

Real threats to our way of life, and real threats to our lives are right in our faces, and they’re falling over themselves to show how tolerant they are of Sodomites and how compassionate they are for Illegals. A pox on them all for feigning outrage when they’re supposed to be the watchdogs of society.


12 posted on 05/21/2014 7:58:30 AM PDT by demshateGod (The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.)
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To: goodnesswins
THAT “necklace” looks like a jumbled mess of my grandmother’s old jewelry

Like somebody dropped a powerful magnet on a metalshop floor.

13 posted on 05/21/2014 7:59:59 AM PDT by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: Kaslin

Here’s a bold idea....

Privatize the whole VA....

Congress would scream like howler monkeys...

Sell off it’s assets and give our veterans the care they earned....

It possibly can’t be more expensive to fund their premiums than it costs now...to run a piss poor excuse for a death panel....


14 posted on 05/21/2014 8:00:46 AM PDT by Popman ("Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God" - Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Kaslin

Ummmm.....Don......the President is the head of The Executive Branch of our government. That’s the branch of government the VA falls under. Barack Obama is The President of The United States of America. We citizens voted to put him in charge of The Executive Branch. Obama is not doing his job. He has had 170 golf days since he took office. He seems to have plenty of time for fundraising and playing golf. He just doesn’t have time to do his job.


15 posted on 05/21/2014 8:02:28 AM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: Kaslin

Obama on TV at the moment, saying how hard he’s been working to keep the VA working for Vets. Big review scheduled, and then the big guy will act.


16 posted on 05/21/2014 8:02:38 AM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: goodnesswins

That necklace looks like the old cookie tin my grandmother put the broken stuff in and let grand daughters play dress up with. Looks like the contents of that tin just got dumped out on the floor. Right before we set about untangling the best pieces to go with our old blanket wedding dresses and evening gowns!


17 posted on 05/21/2014 8:04:39 AM PDT by Black Agnes
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To: Kaslin

I know that this subject is getting a lot of attention do to the recent gross negligence in the treatment of our country’s veterans, however this is nothing new.

The VA has always been and will continue to be a completely inept bureaucratic nightmare as long as you have folks there they don’t give a crap about anything except their federal pension.

I’m sure that we could find enough qualified men and women veterans, civilians need not apply, who would be more than capable of managing the system. I’m not necessarily talking about providing the health care, even though there are plenty of qualified nurse and doctors, but speaking more to the bureaucratic wasteland that is responsible for processing the paperwork required by all who apply to the system.


18 posted on 05/21/2014 8:05:44 AM PDT by shotgun
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To: Kaslin

19 posted on 05/21/2014 8:11:23 AM PDT by New Perspective (Proud father of a son with Down Syndrome and fighting to keep him off Obama's death panels.)
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To: pepsionice
Either that or shut down the department and issue vouchers to veterans so they can get the care they need from the same system that we all use.

Although I'm a veteran I will never get the benefits I thought I would, as most services are now means tested. If the system were to be reformed, I suggest that the laws change so that veterans will never receive less service than was available when they served. Guys like me never considered that the benefits we were promised could ever be reduced or diluted. Back then, we had a blind faith in our government. Now, to anything the government says, I would say, "Oh, yeah? Prove it."

20 posted on 05/21/2014 8:13:02 AM PDT by clintonh8r (#Don't give up! The liberals are buggering and aborting themselves into extinction.)
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To: Kaslin
Senator Patty (mom-in-tennis shoes & not too smart) Murray has long been saying she was going to clean up the VA hospitals. I would like someone to start pinning the problems at the VA on both the Democrats in the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress who have oversight of the VA.

It is about time that government failure had consequences for career political appointees and for elected officials.

The whole VA medical things is a scandal.

21 posted on 05/21/2014 8:15:03 AM PDT by Robert357 (D.Rather "Hoist with his own petard!" www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1223916/posts)
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To: The_Republic_Of_Maine

Our entire medical system is pharmaceutically driven

And these companies are feeling the crunch. They are pushing the C of C for amnesty


22 posted on 05/21/2014 8:18:27 AM PDT by stanne
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To: pepsionice

I agree, and the many complications are not insurmountable (e.g., a “doctor” shortage, since many VA doctors would not be employable in the private sector, where liability lawsuits happen).

Assuming your $80 billion figure is accurate, next step would be to estimate how many veterans there are now, and projections into the future, to derive how much insurance that would buy.


23 posted on 05/21/2014 8:24:33 AM PDT by Chewbarkah
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To: Kaslin

Vets don’t have a lot of money to bribe the jerks in congress... maybe that’s the problem...

Well, maybe ‘bribe’ is too harsh a term - vets don’t have enough money to ‘donate’ to the worthy re-election of our country’s blowhards...


24 posted on 05/21/2014 8:26:32 AM PDT by GOPJ (If dems will "death panel" our vets they'll damn sure death panel the rest of us...)
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To: Popman

Scrapping the va system which is more good than bad and exponentially better than what you’re about to see with obamadontcare is possibly what this brouhaha was put out there for

Placing vets into obamacare will reduce their care

So let us drop that, shall we ?


25 posted on 05/21/2014 8:28:39 AM PDT by stanne
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To: clintonh8r

Hubby is a Vietnam vet who came home, went to work, and never....not once has used the VA system. How many millions are there just like him. Seems to me that with millions like him not using the system they should be able to afford good treatment of the ones that are.


26 posted on 05/21/2014 8:29:57 AM PDT by sheana
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To: Popman
Give vets vouchers for real health care.. The people of the VA think they're doing a big effing favor by even treating our guys..."Stand in line - wait a year in pain, and smile or you won't get treated"...

It's like the sheiks of UAE taking beggars along on desert vacations - they get puffed up with all the humiliation people have to give to get something.

Close the VA down... let these jerks find real work where they're not treated like Gods.

27 posted on 05/21/2014 8:31:57 AM PDT by GOPJ (If dems will "death panel" our vets they'll damn sure death panel the rest of us...)
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To: Pearls Before Swine

Yeah, he was using his “angry voice.” Now he’s taking questions and has cooled off considerably, so I guess the indignation was just an act....


28 posted on 05/21/2014 8:36:13 AM PDT by clintonh8r (#Don't give up! The liberals are buggering and aborting themselves into extinction.)
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To: sheana

Same here...Vietnam veteran. Got a gold crown on a molar after I mustered out, but that had nothing to do with VA, just a temporary post-seperation extension of dental benefits. Since then I have not used VA “benefits” and as someone now on Medicare, I expect I never will. I’m one of the lucky ones, in many many ways....


29 posted on 05/21/2014 8:39:08 AM PDT by clintonh8r (#Don't give up! The liberals are buggering and aborting themselves into extinction.)
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To: Popman

Vouchers for veterans! Long live the free market!


30 posted on 05/21/2014 8:43:07 AM PDT by onedoug (God derived the function we discovered as mathematics)
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To: stanne

I never said we should drop vets into zerocare....

They should sell the B&M assets and the government pays the premium for whatever health provider they want....give them no strings attached vouchers....

It is really that simple. ..


31 posted on 05/21/2014 8:53:27 AM PDT by Popman ("Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God" - Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Kaslin
...and so? "What difference does it make?"...

The VA has willfully murdered vets through denial of service and mistreatment for at least 40 years. Its not "a few facilities" at the present time as Obama claims, its the whole damned system everywhere.

So why now? What would be the motivation for a politician, known to despise the American military and its veterans, to suddenly care, to suddenly have a great awakening to VA misconduct and why has the mainstream media suddenly become so patriotic in getting behind this issue?

I see a couple of posters calling for the VA to be shut down. Obamas comments in his address today seemed to carefully insinuate that very suggestion at times. Why? Is the entire point to in fact shut down the VA to get all of those vets forced into Obamacare? Remember, this mess was originally Hillarycare. Are the same insurance companies, that were behind her and likely behind Obama, expecting some type of monetary gain in this big public/private cooperative fascist wet dream?

Is the VA not the problem Obama is trying to fix at all? Is the problem actually that too many know how the VA has operated. Has this malfeasance become so emblematic that it is one of the primary reasons people wont enroll in Obamacare? By feigning committed devotion to this VA issue is he protecting his legacy and protecting his benefactors investments?

So a "few" vets died recently and "few" more have recently been mistreated, really, "what difference does it make?" The fact is that the VA has operated as it was intended to for a long time or it wouldn't have been allowed to abuse veterans for decades...so why now?

32 posted on 05/21/2014 9:05:33 AM PDT by gnarledmaw (Obama: Evincing a Design since 2009)
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To: Popman

It is NOT simple.

First, no way are our vets going to get better care than they do. It’s not just that it’s big govt it’s that people really won’t do anything about this worth anything more than talk

And they very often find excuses to resent the military

The only thing worse than government led health care for vets is publicly run health care left to the whims of people like Obama

And the second most important point is, insurance, doctors, clinics, hospitals, nurses, and private healthcare , plus pharmaceuticals, med equipment and research and development are all about to take an awl iron dive

People can deny it to their content. But it is over.

There will be no private sector health care.

Come on out from under the rock

And the last thing to do for vets is put them in the pool competing for the most diminished and expensive system of health care in history

They’ll be the first on the death panels


33 posted on 05/21/2014 9:06:54 AM PDT by stanne
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To: LucianOfSamasota

Spot on


34 posted on 05/21/2014 9:28:56 AM PDT by Vaduz
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To: stanne

You may be correct except for this....

-——There will be no private sector health care.——

I think at the end of the day after the government gets done ramming socialist medicine down our throats there will be a segment of the medical profession that will offer concierge medical services outside of government intrusion....

Basically groups of doctors who will cover a range of services for an annual fee....or a monthly premium ....

There is no reason why vets should not be allowed to join one if they believe they will get better care....paid via a voucher...


35 posted on 05/21/2014 12:25:53 PM PDT by Popman ("Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God" - Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Popman

All probable. However, you can’t flood the system with vets, it would crowd out those seeking private care, which they have the right to do. Their taxes pay for the vets to get service.

The VA hospitals are good. THey are huge facilities and many clinics which already exist.

Fixing that is the ticket.

Utopian to think the private system will take care of vets.


36 posted on 05/21/2014 1:06:40 PM PDT by stanne
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