Tragic VA scandal should deliver a broader lesson
I have this friend who is a military veteran. He doctors at the VA and even helps shuttle disabled vets to the hospital. I've never heard a negative comment from him on the service at the Veterans Administration. No matter how well-administered, it is the people who make any business function properly.
That leads us to the real problem at the VA. It is not a business. Businesses are funded by willing buyers who can affect the future of a business by going elsewhere.
Eric Shinseki who just stepped down as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is most valuable as a scapegoat, ready to take the blame when things go wrong. In my studies of him I found he is a good man who, as a leader, cared for his men under circumstances beyond his control. As a human being, he trusted his subordinates because he couldn't be everywhere at once.
He is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and an innovator in urban warfare and mobility modernization. As Army Chief of Staff during the invasion of Iraq he suggested we needed hundreds of thousands of troops to maintain peace there once our occupation was accomplished. This didn't go over well with the Defense[sic] Department's Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, who described our invasion as a “cake walk.” Shinseki's opinion was ignored and has proven to be correct. Shinseki's request for so many troops for the mission he was given, was impossible to fill. The war should never have happened but the Neo-cons prevailed and Iraq is a mess.
In the case of the Veterans Administration, Shinseki's call to duty was part of his downfall. In his loyalty to his troops he approved treatment for injuries from Agent Orange and post traumatic stress disorder. That. along with the maimed and disabled from Iraq and Afghanistan, swelled demand at VA hospitals beyond what funding could supply. On top of that, VA hospitals are unionized. The American Federation of Government Employees has workers at hospitals doing union business instead of treating patients and they oppose referring patients to private hospitals to alleviate wait-times as a ploy for hiring more workers. Rules to protect union workers consistently halved efficiency and swelled waiting lists.
These facts are only the tip of the iceberg of why the VA abuses and even murders our veterans who joined with the assumption government would keep its word.
The deranged notion that removing Eric Shinseki from his position will cure the Veterans Administration, is foolishness. The whole concept is flawed because it ignores the profit motive.
Medical care of veterans should be paid for by the veterans directly. They should have salaries high enough so they could shop for the best private insurance. The cost of the insurance would be determined by insurance companies by the risks and costs involved. Corruption like we've discovered at VA hospitals would not be tolerated in a for-profit system.
If the cost of the insurance is too high to be covered by the soldiers' salaries then they should seek employment elsewhere or go uninsured and not rely on taxpayers for their care.
If this restricts evil people like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz from using our men to satisfy their illusions of grandeur, it will prove the market seeks truth. If a threat to our country is high enough for taxpayers to fund a proper force with proper benefits, we will gladly pay. Iraq and Afghanistan were funded with inflation and borrowed money to circumvent cost restraints of a capitalist system.
Given a direct choice and with proper information, markets would prevent hospitals full of disabled vets and countries laid to waste by sociopathic government officials.
Let the VA scandal serve as a lesson on how well government provides services.