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The scandal-plagued U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not currently have a congressionally approved leader. At the same time, the VA’s bureaucrats also appear to have little interest
in providing timely health care to America’s veterans, nor do they appear to take the business of maintaining safe and clean medical facilities for their patients very seriously, as recent news stories from Los Angeles’ VA hospital confirm.
Too often, there has been one root cause behind the VA’s inability to get its house in order: the bureaucrats of the government department too often put their own interests ahead of those of the veterans they claim to serve, with the result being millions of wasted taxpayer dollars and hundreds of prematurely ended lives.
The problem of institutionalized corruption of the VA is proving to be far beyond the ability of simple changes in leadership to repair, which is why the U.S. Congress is taking steps to make it possible for more veterans to seek medical treatment outside of the VA’s failing system. Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives took a baby step in that direction, as Hope Yen of the Associated Press reports:
The House voted Wednesday to give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the Veterans Affairs health system, a major shift aimed at reducing wait times and improving medical care despite the concerns of some Democrats who cast it as a risky step toward dismantling the struggling agency.
The plan seeks to fulfill President Donald Trump’s promise to expand private care to veterans whenever they feel unhappy with VA health care.
The long-awaited bill would change how veterans receive their medical treatment by allowing them to go to a private physician when they felt government-run VA medical centers couldn’t provide the care they needed, with the approval of a VA health provider. Veterans could access private care when they endured lengthy wait times, or the treatment was not what they had expected.
What makes this a baby step is that the VA can still dictate whether a veteran seeking effective and timely medical treatment can obtain care outside its system.
The VA would decide in many cases when a veteran sees an outside doctor, based on conditions it sets that determine what is inadequate care.
That restriction could very well allow the VA to continue abusing its government-created monopoly in providing health care to America’s veterans by preventing them from obtaining timely medical care outside of VA facilities, which only serves to benefit the interests of the VA’s bureaucracy.
The reform is being included in a spending appropriations bill that also aims to provide more financing to support the Veterans Choice program, which has chronically run low on funding because lawmakers and VA administrators did not anticipate the high level of demand of veterans seeking access to medical services from the private sector.
Considering the larger picture, the problems at the VA will never be solved until veterans can freely choose where they can obtain their own medical treatment, whether it be at specialized VA health care facilities or anywhere else outside of the VA’s system. The U.S. Congress needs to do more to make that possible.