The Veterans Administration Is Broken! Let’s Fix It

The Veterans Administration Is Broken! Let’s Fix It

The failure of the VA is directly due to the essentially unaccountable, civil service protected bureaucrats who really run the VA medical system.

In 1981, high ranking Veterans Administration bureaucrats claimed that, “The Vietnam combat veterans will just have to wait their turn; we still have veterans of World War II and the Korean War to take care of!”
Apparently the same attitude prevails today. The veterans of our wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan will have to wait until the Veterans Administration bureaucracy is finished with its lackadaisical and unenthusiastic treatment of the Vietnam combat veterans.

Wars, war wounds, medical care and treatment for veterans

With each war the United States has fought since the American Revolution and the War of 1812, medical advances have saved the lives of seriously wounded combat veterans. The number of veterans surviving serious spinal cord injuries and multiple amputations has increased exponentially from war to war.
Since the War in Southeast Asia medical science now recognizes that modern ordinance can produce serious damage to the human nervous system without clear evidence of trauma. In addition, the stress of combat in a war without clearly defined goals and objectives to which our soldiers and sailors can relate leads to serious problems when those soldiers and sailors return to civilian life and try to live among people who cannot understand much less appreciate the meaning of combat.

Apparently when President George W. Bush decided to go to war against Iraq, he forgot to tell the Veterans Administration bureaucracy and the Congress to prepare for the casualties of that war.

In 1981, the Vietnam combat veterans claimed they had a right to timely and complete medical care for any injury, disease or disability resulting from their military service. They had to sue VA just to be heard
Very little has changed at the Veterans Administration since 1981 as far as the humane and compassionate treatment of all our veterans is concerned.

Dismantle the VA bureaucracy from the top down

Regardless of the constraints imposed by federal civil service rules and regulations, the management of the bureaucracy in the VA medical system has to be dismantled.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has direct authority over the individual men and women in our armed services and is responsible only to the President of the United States as commander-in-chief of those armed services. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is still responsible to the President of the United States, but the Secretary has no real and meaningful authority over the essentially unaccountable bureaucrats protected by the federal civil service system who actually manage the day-to-day affairs of the VA medical system.
There is really no place for the federal civil service system in our Veterans Administration any more than there is any place for civil service rules and regulations in our Armed Forces.

A modest proposal

  • Evaluate the structure of the VA medical care system. Isolate its mission-critical individual units—the VA hospitals, the VA nursing homes, the VA long-term care facilities, the VA outpatient clinics, and the VA dispensaries.
  • Identify the staffing at every VA healthcare facility and review the function, authority, and exercise of power, authority, and control by every individual who does not provide direct healthcare to the veterans.
  • Establish a nationwide VA electronic medical record system and utilize modern methods of data mining to determine the timeliness and effectiveness of the medical care and treatment provided our veterans.
  • Assure that the medical treatment staff at VA health care facilities has an understanding and appreciation of service in the Armed Forces and the acute and chronic effects of combat.
  • Promote and encourage sharing of information about a veteran among all the healthcare professionals who may be engaged in treating the veteran.
  • Integrated medical care and treatment, improvement in the quality of life and living, and expediting the return of each veteran to substantial gainful employment in the national economy should be the declared unwavering goal of the entire VA healthcare system.
  • Provide procedures and promulgate rules and regulations for a civilian equivalent of a summary court-martial for any VA healthcare facility employee charged with neglect or incompetence in the care and treatment of individual veteran patients at their healthcare facility.
  • Treat the VA healthcare system as a unit of the Armed Forces of the United States.
  • Establish a command and control system for the Veterans Administration which is no less efficient and effective than that provided for Special Operations units in the military.
  • Eliminate the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs and its attendant bureaucracy from the civilian Cabinet of the President and bring the Veterans Administration under the direct supervision and control of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Any change in the administration and management of the Veterans Administration is doomed to failure, however, unless the ineffective procedures, rules and regulations which cripple military procurement practices and have led to overpriced, suboptimal weapons systems since the conclusion of the Korean war are overhauled and brought into conformity with modern business practices.