Washington Post columnist Charles Lane ran a column yesterday called Why don’t we just abolish the VA? I was a bit taken aback by this, especially when he started using Cold War rhetoric to make his point, calling the VA “a Soviet-style structure, minus the coherence of the one-party state.” (What is this 1961? A Mad Men episode? Stop me now.)
But I guess he kind of has a point. He notes,
The latest VA scandal involves a still-unfinished 182-bed hospital in Aurora, Colo., that has already cost $1.7 billion and may require another $830 million from Congress. Similar cost overruns plague VA projects in Las Vegas, Orlando and New Orleans, as The Post’s Emily Wax-Thibodeaux recently reported.
Meanwhile, an investigation by VA’s inspector general has found that its Philadelphia office imposed inappropriately long waits for pension claims and doctored records to cover them up, among other alleged abuses.
This comes on the heels of last year’s sensational revelation of long wait times and data falsification at the VA hospital in Phoenix — which cost Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and several top lieutenants their jobs.
But I thought wait times were getting better. Then I noticed this story from a couple weeks back:
A year after Americans recoiled at revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists, VA statistics show that the number of patients facing long waits has not declined, even after Congress gave the department an extra $16.3 billion last summer to shorten waits for care.
Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system's timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. More than a quarter of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days.
A small veterans hospital in West Virginia placed patients “at medical risk” and violated policy by substituting cheaper drugs for prescribed anti-psychotic medication to save money, an internal agency investigation shows.
The announcement comes four months after the Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered "candy man" overprescription of opiates at a VA hospital in Tomah, Wis.
Allegations of using cheaper drugs at the 40-bed Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Beckley, W.Va., surfaced last year, triggering an internal investigation by the agency's Office of the Medical Inspector.
That probe found that the hospital pharmacy encouraged the use of alternative anti-psychotic drugs because they were cheaper, an action that "may have constituted a substantial and specific danger to public heath," the medical inspector report said.
Just awful. As noted above, the White House did sign a bill last year to give the VA “the necessary resources to improve access and quality of care for the men and women who have served our country in uniform.” This funding better start helping soon and in the meantime, wish I had better news.