John Linder

A major benchmark for the hospital administrator is the VA rule which says that a patient must be seen within two weeks of them asking for an appointment. The administrator is rated on how well they succeed with that rule.

At some point an administrator came up with a scheme. When the patient requests an appointment all of the patient’s information is entered into the template, but rather than entering it onto the computer drive it is printed out and held until two weeks before an appointment was available. The appointment was then entered into the system and the benchmark was met.

Sharon Helman, the Phoenix hospital administrator where 40 veterans died waiting for an appointment, fooled her bosses sufficiently to get a bonus in 2013 and again just last month.

Government employees attend conventions. We all remember the GSA convention in Las Vegas and the judges going to Hawaii. Much gets discussed at the bar in the evening. People share experiences and ideas. I can just imagine the enthusiasm when the “secret waiting list” scheme was first shared with friends as a way to fool the bosses. I would be surprised if it were not being copied in every VA facility in America.

While there is much angst about solving the problem of the wait times, perhaps it is time to start over. We all choose our doctor – or our retailer for that matter – based on how satisfied we are with their service. Let us give that same choice to our veterans. Some will choose the VA, but some will go to the doctor close to home.

Not every veteran will be totally satisfied with the choice they make, but that mistake can be corrected without our help. We will not have to mobilize the entire federal government to deal with the scandalous treatment of our veterans by the very agency that was created to serve them.

John Linder

John Linder was a Member of Congress for 18 years from Georgia. He and his wife, Lynne, have retired to a farm in Northeast Mississippi.