By J.D. Gordon
President Obama finally addressed the nation Wednesday about the growing scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. After meeting with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki he pledged to hold folks accountable.
Thanks, Mr. President.
By now most American have heard about the VA’s infamous patient “secret wait lists” which reportedly contributed to the deaths of up to 40 veterans in the Phoenix area alone. Those patriots were American heroes who served our country proudly. Yet they were left to die waiting to see a doctor.
Here’s another secret the White House doesn’t want you to know about the VA. Al Qaeda detainees get better medical treatment than our veterans.
Yes, it’s true. I know because I served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005-2009 and visited Guantanamo Bay Naval Base over 30 times during those years.
Despite the fact that Al Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 terror attacks, killing 3,000 people in America, the admitted co-conspirators and their roughly 150 fellow jihadists at Gitmo have approximately 100 doctors, nurses and health care personnel assigned to them.
Doctors and medical personnel are at their beck and call. Got a cold, a fever, a toothache, a tumor, chest or back pain, mental health issues, PTSD? No problem, come right on in. Military doctors are waiting to see you.
The VA and Gitmo eligible patient-to-health care provider ratios speak volumes.
While the Gitmo ratio is 1.5 to 1, for America’s 9 million veterans receiving VA health care and 267,930 VA employees, the ratio is 35 to 1.
But beyond the Gitmo numbers, the situation at the VA is also a bright, shining example of misguided priorities and terrible mismanagement.
In late 2008, when Obama was president-elect, he and his staff were warned not to trust the wait times reported by VA health care facilities. But instead of fixing the problem, their focus was closing Guantanamo and improving the comfort of detainees. Even though they already lived under some of the best prison conditions ever seen.
While some who see “2008” may reflexively say, “blame Bush, not Obama” the fact is that the VA’s health system has been fatally flawed for years, regardless of who has been the president.
The VA is a classic example of big government gone wild. It is America’s second largest cabinet agency after the Defense Department. Since civil service promotions are traditionally based more on seniority than performance, and it’s near impossible to fire anyone, there’s a punch-the-clock mentality that’s pervasive. Not surprisingly, there's little to no sense of urgency. So to instill incentives, the VA shells out high salaries and bonuses, deserved or not.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-09. He serves as senior adviser to several Washington-based think tanks.