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Fixing What Ails the VA

Thursday February 23rd, 2017   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:27am PST   •  

Last week saw two significant developments at the scandal-ridden U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

  1. The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to confirm President Trump’s selection of David Shulkin to assume the top leadership post of the VA, replacing the often out-of-his-depth Robert McDonald.
  2. The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a 700-page report on federal government programs that are highly vulnerable to waste, fraud and mismanagement, which would benefit from more effective oversight. The VA was identified as being at “high risk” for these deficiencies, after failing to improve enough for its risk level to be lowered in the once-every-two-years GAO assessment.

Stars and Stripes‘ Nikki Wentling transcribes the response by the VA’s congressional overseers regarding the “concerning” report.

“It certainly underscores that the Veterans Health Administration has not made enough progress towards providing quality care for our veterans,” Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in a written statement. Roe is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“As I’ve said time and time again, VA should have the resources necessary to serve veterans, but we must also take a close look at how the department is allocating the resources they’ve been entrusted,” the congressman said.

At a hearing last month, Roe said he didn’t think the VA was spending its budget wisely, and that improvements wouldn’t come solely from a budget increase.

Unlike other federal government agencies and departments, the VA has not lacked for funding as its problems have continued.

Despite that funding, Wentling reports that the actions that the VA’s management have taken have failed to seriously address the multiple failures that prompted the GAO to place it on its “high risk” watch list.

The VA made an action plan to work on the issues, but the plan was missing an analysis of the root causes of problems and the ability to clearly measure progress, the GAO said.

Fixing what ails the VA will require both a solid understanding of the root causes that led the department to become the poster child for bureaucratic mismanagement and to be able to demonstrate that its corrective actions are producing the desired results. With new and hopefully more effective leadership now in place at the top of the VA, 2017 may be the year that the VA’s bureaucratic nightmare for veterans seeking timely medical care will be turned around for the better.

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February 2017