The time is long past when the scandal of the treatment of our veterans should have been removed from the political arena and drastically remedied..
The various reports of inefficiencies in the functioning of what should be one of our highest priorities of government is heartbreaking. For example, investigations into the long wait times faced by the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, exposed the fact that a number of veterans were dying after long waits and delayed care
It is our understanding that some improvements have been made under the cirrent reform administration as a result of the avalanche of evidence that the Department is a cesspool of mismanagement and petty politics.
All the candidates for president in the elections later this year have turned to the subject of veterans’ welfare, some with more specific suggestions for improvements, others with the usual demagogic rhetoric of profession of support for the fighting man and the veteran.
But we believe that the problem is more urgent than any other issue before the federal government at this time aside from national security.
Statistics alone, from the Department itself, reflects the growing urgency: the number of calls rose by 112 percent from 2013 to 2014. Given the demographics of the veterans our two most recent wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, this load on the agency is certain to increase, and increase at a more rapid pace.
We believe that given the actual low priorities which the Obama Administration has assigned to military affairs generally, and specifically to veterans’ affairs, we believe it is time for a bipartisan and immediaste effort by the Congress to take control of the problem.
Here is our own horseback beginning of the solution of some of these problems, but one we insist, again, is of the highest urgency and ought to immediately get the attention of the Congress:
- Congress should immediately suspend the Department of Veterans Affairs Administration and put it in the hands of an independent and expert Commission for Analyses and Direction of Veterans Affairs for a period of not less than two years.
- That Commission should be chaired by a respected and knowledgeable former uniformed officer.Our nominee would be Gen. [USA Rtd.] David H. Petraeus. One of the additional members of the Comission should be chosen from recently retired military medical officials, the other should be a recently retired official of one of the profitable civilian hospital organizations. An additional executive administrator for the Commission should be chosen from the private medical/hospital world.
- The first action should be to strengthen and implements the Veterans Choice program, part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014. Its provisions already permit veterans to access federally paid medical care from non-VA local doctors and hospitals should be enhanced. We believe competition for the increasing services to the veterans to be the essence of any solution to the current chaotic scene.
- The Commission should within its allotted tenure propose a new organizational approach to veterans’ problems, examining the possibility of transferring the whole operation to the medical services of The Pentagon, for example, or creating a permanent independent commission outside the executive to administer the VA program, or other alternatives to the current and failing part of the President’s heavy cabinet burden.
- We would solicit the support of all the current presidential candidates and the Obama Administration, but failing the latter, the Congressional leadership should move on its own – hopefully with a bipartisan consensus, but if not, plow ahead.
None of this would easy, of course. But neither has the service of the veteran or the long shadow of age and growing incapacities which may develop with it.
Then need is great, the call is urgent. Congress has no higher duty than to implement such a program as soon as possible.