THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
The VA War: Our Veterans Deserve Better
While the power struggle continues at the VA, the men and women who have served our country continue to struggle for decent health care.
The embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, has been trying to consolidate his power and standing within the department (the federal government’s second largest, only behind the Defense Department) for many weeks, working to fire multiple senior managers who are accused of being disloyal to Secretary Shulkin. Reportedly, it’s even gotten to the point where an armed guard is posted outside of his office.
On one side, stands Shulkin, who claims to be cleaning house of underperforming senior staff he considers to be standing in the way of progress, and possibly plotting a coup to keep the status quo.
On the other side, some of the senior staff say they are simply bringing to light their concerns for plans to give more private health care options to veterans, which could lead to a downsizing of the VA’s budget and ultimately decrease the quality of care.
While the complex bureaucratic war rages, it seems, those that are getting lost in the discussion are the veterans and their health care. Regardless of who is to blame, gross deficiencies at the VA need fixing now.
The recent 158-page report entitled Critical Deficiencies at the Washington DC VA Medical Center prepared by the Office of the Inspector General, as you might imagine, is not positive. The report found, that for years, there have been widespread systemic problems leading to Risk of Harm to patients, Service Deficiencies Affecting Patient Care, Lack of Controls Over Assets, and Failures in Leadership.
The report found that leadership staff often were aware of, or made aware of issues, and failed to take adequate action to address and correct problems that affected the safety and care of veterans.
The report detailed extreme deficiencies on many levels and areas of core services that put patients at intrinsic risk. This latest report, however, is nothing new regarding the poor level of care and service received by our veterans at the VA. Wait time and other care related issues have been reported on, as far back as 2000 and before.
Another area of concern for veterans returning from the multiple wars in Afghanistan and Iraq among other hotspots around the globe, is in the area of mental health, and in particular, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not surprisingly, the Department of Veterans Affairs is falling short in their care here as well.
A congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine shows that roughly half of veterans, that may require mental health services, do not use either VA or non-VA provided services. The two primary reasons cited in the report were lack of sufficient mental health resources at the VA, and lack of knowledge on the part of veterans that the resources even exist. The report recommended a comprehensive plan be developed and implemented, to improve timely access to needed mental health services.
It’s time to end the war for posture and bureaucratic control of Veterans Affairs. Our veterans need our help, not petty infighting.
The federal government estimates that 20 veterans per day commit suicide.