VA Reforms: Where Are We At?

VA LogoThe scandal in the Veterans Administration rocked the country six months ago. Since then, initiatives have been signed, money has been spent and the head of the beleaguered agency was forced to resign. Bob McDonald replaced Eric Shinseki as head of the Veterans Administration. After a month in the position Secretary McDonald announced The Road To Veterans Day.

“It is to serve veterans.  There is no higher calling than that mission.  Veterans are our customers.  To me, that means effectively and efficiently providing them the high-quality care and benefits that they’ve already earned,” McDonald said in Washington, DC when announcing the program.

How has he done?

So far, McDonald has said that 35 VA officials will be fired and another 5,500 will face disciplinary action. The firings and reprimands have been delayed as lawyers with the VA determine how to make these punishments happen. At this time, only one, the head of the central Alabama VA, has been fired.

The VA has more than 300,000 employees and punishing less than 2% of them seems underwhelming.

Wait times also remain unacceptably long. The VA blames it on lack of money, but the American taxpayer funded the agency to the tune of $154 billion this year alone. To put that in perspective, the entire military budget of the People’s Republic of China is reportedly $131.57 billion.

“I want to personally apologize to all veterans who experienced unacceptable delays in receiving care in Phoenix, Arizona or across the country.  I said at my confirmation hearing that I will put veterans at the center of everything we do at the VA.  So I’m working to right the wrongs and institute reforms to transform a modernized VA to better serve veterans and I’m committed to fixing the problems and consistently providing timely and high-quality care veterans have earned and veterans deserve,” continued McDonald.

Bob McDonald
Bob McDonald

On August 7, a $16.3 billion bill was signed into law. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act was designed to stop the worst of the accountability issues with the VA by giving patients the ability to see a private doctor if the wait time exceeded the wait time goals. Of course, that choice was contradicted in the same act by allowing the VA to replace the wait time goal with the actual wait time.

That program, however, is having some success. The VA has spent twice as much on non-VA care in the last year. $10 billion has been spent this year to allow veterans, who cannot see a VA doctor in a timely manner, to see a non-VA doctor.

“That’s how we’ll begin regaining veterans’ and the American people’s trust.”

Secretary McDonald has not been on the job long enough to institute lasting reforms, but the actions he takes and the decisions he makes need to be scrutinized and his performance needs to be measured and judged going forward. We have seen what happens when the VA is not kept under close supervision; now we need to see what happens when every move they make is held up to public scrutiny.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Matt Towns
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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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