“To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”
The quotation above is the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) motto, and was taken directly from President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. It was presumably chosen by the VA as an explicit promise to our veterans -- and the men and women who currently serve our nation in uniform -- that the US government will always care for them in their hour of need.
Ironically, though, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) exposes the bankruptcy of that promise in his freshly-released government oversight report entitled "Friendly Fire: Death, Delay, and Dismay at the VA." By any objective standard, it’s clear that the VA system has failed for decades to live up to the Lincolnian ideal of caring for our veterans.
In the report, Sen. Coburn outlines many of the systemic and endemic failures inside the VA Health Care System: excruciatingly long wait times, doctor shortages, excessive and undeserved bonuses for staffers and medical personnel, and head-spinning corruption and malfeasance. The federal agency, as one CNN reporter recently asserted, should fire every senior level manager in the system because the problems are so pervasive and widespread that it cannot realistically be reformed. Incidentally, the report itself is also an investigation into VA culture and practices, and unearths some truly harrowing discoveries. The worst, of course, is the sheer number of veterans who’ve died from neglect, sub-standard care, and bureaucratic incompetence in the VA system over the past 10 years, as Coburn explains in his introduction:
The reason veterans care has suffered for so long is Congress has failed to hold the VA accountable. Despite years of warnings from government investigators about efforts to cook the books, it took the unnecessary deaths of veterans denied care from Atlanta to Phoenix to prompt Congress to finally take action. On June 11, 2014, the Senate recently approved a bipartisan bill to allow veterans who cannot receive a timely doctor’s appointment to go to another doctor outside of the VA.1046
But the problems at the VA are far deeper than just scheduling. After all, just getting to see a doctor does not guarantee appropriate treatment. Veterans in Boston receive top-notch care, while those treated in Phoenix suffer from subpar treatment. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance, and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice.
The waiting list cover-ups and uneven care are reflective of a much larger culture within the VA, where administrators manipulate both data and employees to give an appearance that all is well.
Good employees inside the VA who try to bring attention to problems or errors are punished, bullied, put on “bad boy” lists, and transferred to other locations. These whistleblowers, who come forward to expose the problems, demonstrate many employees within the VA are dedicated to serving veterans and willing to put their livelihood at risk to ensure our nation’s heroes are getting the care they were promised. Without their courage, more veterans may have died unnecessarily and Washington would have continued to ignore the systemic problems within the VA.
The report is some 85 pages and sheds considerable light on one of the most unwieldy, corrupt and fraudulent federal agencies in America today. Read it all here.