House Speaker John Boehner asked the right question. His question was, “What in hell is wrong with the VA?” He wanted to know why only one person had been fired over the recent VA scandals.
I know why the VA medical system is broken, but the answer will never be addressed, because it is politically sensitive. The rank and file VA employee is the problem. No one will ever admit that, but the truth is the VA is rotten down to the core. It is staffed with long-term government employees that can’t be fired, and if they are challenged on their behavior or performance, they will simply file a grievance against their accuser.
I retired from the military several years ago and had to go to the VA hospital in St. Louis for my out-processing physical. I had an appointment to pick up my file at 7 a.m. and a checklist of places to be that day for appointments. The person responsible for opening the office to issue the file was an hour and a half late with no explanation.
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My next stop was with the audiologist. She filled out my form while I explained that I was completely deaf in my right ear. She nodded and continued to fill out the paperwork. After I got in the booth and the test started, she stopped and asked if I had a hearing problem in my right ear. That is an example of how the entire day went; rude employees that didn’t listen or care. It was obvious they were just going through the motions.
I started to talk to the older veterans as I waited in various holding areas. One older man told me, “Son, you must be new here. These people don’t give a (expletive) about you. Get used to it.”
At that point, I went to file a formal complaint. The young lady pulled out a yellow tablet to record my complaint. I had been in the military for more than 20 years, so I knew there had to be an official form for that purpose. She had no clue how to take a formal complaint and that was her job.
I contacted my Congressman, John Shimkus, and to his credit, he visited the VA hospital and took me with him. The administration put on a great show for him and told him what a great job they were doing.
From the events that have occurred since then, it is obvious that nothing has changed. Firing a few people at the top won’t help. The bureaucracy is so entrenched, and the employees can’t be fired. It is the recipe for the poor care we get. No one should be surprised by the results of this system and it won’t get better.
The VA hospital system needs to be eliminated or privatized. The money would be better spent by providing veterans vouchers so they can seek their own medical care in the private sector.