So here’s how you fix the problems with the VA health care system. Fire everyone responsible for administering it. There it is—and bring me the next case which I will solve with equally level-headed aplomb.
Yeah, I realize getting rid of a problem or its causes is only a 50-percent solution. To really solve a problem, you’ve got to do three things: Identify the glitch, eliminate it, and then provide a fix. And that’s where you get a two-fer with my plan. We know what the problem is; namely an entrenched nest of bureaucrats more interested in perks and sinecures than service to deserving veterans. That’s step one covered.
I’ve given you step two: chuck the bounders unceremoniously and mercilessly out into the street. And that involves more than merely shuffling the deck and moving these rat-bastards into another Civil Service slot elsewhere in a bloated and dysfunctional system. Negative on that standard government operating procedure in which the deck chairs are moved while the ship continues to sink. It means putting every Oscillating Richard in the VA health care system administrative bureaucracy completely and thoroughly out of a job period. Then we just sit back and laugh while they lawyer-up and retire to the fainting couch clutching at their pearls.
Now for step three, the fix: Bring in a staff of men and women returning from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to administer the Health Care system and let them attack and defeat the problems in the same straightforward manner they handled missions in combat.
Unavailable? I don’t think so, Maynard. Last time I checked the figures from across the country, the overall unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan vets is somewhere around 15 percent. And for the veterans ages 24 and under, just the kind of young, aggressive, highly motivated, kick-ass types you need, the unemployment rate is a staggering 29 percent compared with the national rate for non-vets in the same age group.
Unqualified? Please. Are you going to claim among those thousands of vets, experienced problem solvers imbued with the spirit of selfless national service, we can’t find people with the skills required to fix the system in very short order? There’s sure as hell enough money available to support their efforts if it gets spent in the right ways. And these veterans will know how to fire on the right targets. See, they’d be helping their brothers and sisters, survivors of the same experiences they had in the Middle East and elsewhere, and that’s what you call motivation.
And while we’re out there rapidly recruiting and hiring vets to solve the problems in the VA health care system, deep-six the Federal Civil Service employment schedule that tangles the system into impenetrable knots and creates its own little fiefdoms full of union-protected sycophants. The new hires would be regular nine-to-fivers subject to immediate dismissal if they screw up their responsibilities or fail to deliver the required fixes. Veterans are used to that kind of thing from their own life-or-death experiences and none of them are going to bitch about being held to a high performance standard.
Note that I am not talking here about applying the stiff-bristled broom to the medical professionals in the VA system, those solid doctors, nurses, shrinks, lab-techs, and pharmacists that regularly do really good work when the system allows them to actually treat patients. Those folks need support and they’d damn sure get it from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have seen good medics at work in combat zones and recognize the importance of letting them do their life-saving stuff without interference or bureaucratic delays.
Unfortunately, recent revelations and likely more shocking ones that will come to light as the pervasive problems in VA health care administration continue to draw attention, have caused a crisis of confidence among our veteran populations. I’ve talked to men and women in over-crowded VA hospital waiting rooms and there’s an air of paranoia among them. Will the system actually give them the care they need? Or will they be the next casualty on a growing list of veterans who get lost on some secret list or die for lack of attention?
There’s also a fix for that thorny problem. In military terms, it’s called a change of command and that happened recently. General Eric Shinseki had to go. As usual with high-level Presidential appointees, he didn’t depart under a cloud. He was allowed to offer his resignation and leave in a shower of kudos and plaudits. I’m OK with that. What’s wrong with the current method of administering VA health care is not entirely his fault. He was dealing with a bureaucracy backed by unions and regiments of panting attorneys, but like the captain of a warship he should be held ultimately responsible for everything that happens on his watch with no excuses or explanations acceptable.
Lord knows who will replace Shinseki but it will likely be yet another retired flag officer. There are a few genuine no-nonsense former combat commanders among the potential candidates. There are also way too many political toadies and conformists in the crowd. I’m not holding my breath for this administration to reach out for someone like Marine General Jim Mattis or one of the other retired generals with the guts to ignore politics and wrestle the system into functional order.
He never calls for my opinion, but if the President really wants to unscrew this mess in the VA health care system, he’d find a former infantry company commander with multiple deployments who doesn’t give a big rat’s ass about anything but the mission and taking care of his people. There needs to be new blood coursing through the clogged arteries of the VA health care system and we’d all be well-served to get it from men and women who have seen some of that blood spilled on our most recent battlefields.