Monday, June 2, 2014

qotd: VA: Do we awfulize, or do we fix it?

Senator Bernie Sanders
Press Release
June 1, 2014

Chairman Sanders Lays Out Legislative Action Plan for Veterans

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today
outlined a comprehensive legislative package to address "reprehensible"
behavior by VA officials and to correct underlying problems in access to
medical care.

"There must be a culture of honesty and accountability within the VA and
people who have lied or manipulated data must be punished. But we also
have to get to the root causes of the problems that have been exposed.
The simple truth is that with 2 million more veterans coming into the
system in recent years there are many facilities within the VA that do
not have the doctors, nurses and other personnel that they need to
provide quality care in a timely way."

Sanders said a Thursday hearing of the veterans committee will consider
the Restoring Veterans' Trust Act of 2014. The measure then could be put
on a fast track for consideration by the full Senate. It would give the
VA authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job
performance while preventing wholesale political firings. It would
provide veterans who can't get timely appointments with VA doctors the
option of going to community health centers, military hospitals or
private doctors. It would authorize VA to lease 27 new health facilities
in 18 states. It would authorize emergency funding to hire new doctors,
nurses and other providers in order to address system-wide health care
provider shortages and to take other steps necessary to ensure timely
access to care. To address primary care doctor shortage for the
long-term, the bill would authorize the National Health Service Corps to
award scholarships to medical school students and to forgive college
loans for doctors and nurses who go to work at the VA.

Altogether, the bill would provide education, retirement security and
other benefits for millions of veterans and their families. Virtually
all of the provisions already have been approved by the Senate
committee, many of them by unanimous votes, during previous legislative
markup sessions.

Sanders said the need for congressional action was underscored last
Wednesday when the VA's independent Office of Inspector General found
that officials had lied about wait times for appointments at the Phoenix
VA and other medical facilities. A separate audit delivered to President
Barack Obama on Friday disclosed attempts by VA employees at two-thirds
of VA hospitals and clinics to cover up delays in providing patient care.



The Fiscal Times
May 27, 2014
VA Scandal Gives Single-Payer Opponents Ammunition
By Brianna Ehley

The ongoing scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department has forced the
idea of government-managed health care into the spotlight, with
opponents pointing to the VA's failures as an example of what could
happen if the country were to adopt government run health care or a
single payer insurance policy on a larger scale.

Larry Kudlow of the Kudlow Report was quick to pounce on the VA scandal
as testament to what goes wrong when you adopt socialized medicine.
"This VA scandal is a reminder that government-run single-payer health
care does not work."

However, single payer advocates say what's happening at the VA isn't
relevant to single payer at all, since the VA is completely
government-run and in a single- payer system, the delivery of care would
remain largely in the private sector's hands.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont and potential
2016 presidential contender, has been a leading advocate of a
single-payer health care system for years. Last week, Sanders led a
panel discussion on Capitol Hill over the future of single payer, since
his home state of Vermont is expected to serve as a single payer guinea
pig for other states.


Comment by Don McCanne

To no surprise, opponents of government involvement in health care have
jumped on the malfeasance exposed at the Veterans Health Administration
as proof that the government can't do anything right. Many have expanded
that by saying that this is proof that a single payer health care system
cannot work - a non sequitur if there ever was one. This nonproductive
awfulizing that is taking place (imagining horrific situations and
outcomes that don't yet exist) is a totally inappropriate response when
what we need is intervention to correct the deficiencies. Fortunately
Sen. Bernie Sanders understands that.

The problem provoking the current furor is the tolerance and
mismanagement of excessive queues. It is well within our capabilities to
reduce queues to acceptable levels. More attention should be given to
queue management (the process that reduced long lines at airports after
9/11). Capacities within the system need to be adjusted. Often small
expenditures directed to increasing capacity can dramatically reduce
queues. Reinforcing primary care has long been recognized as a priority,
yet members of Congress sit on their duffs. Perhaps this will awaken
some members to the need to fulfill their responsibilities to the people.

In February, Sen. Sanders submitted a bill to Congress designed to
improve the functioning of the VA health system. It was blocked by the
Republican Senators. Sen. Sanders is now using the political capital
created by this mismanagement in an effort to enact The Restoring
Veterans' Trust Act of 2014. It not only addresses the queues, but it
also establishes other important policies designed to improve the
functioning of the VA health system. Although he may be able to gain
enough Republican support to pass this bill in the Senate, some
Republican members of the House this weekend said that we do not have
the money required to implement the proposals. Of course that is
nonsense. With midterm elections around the corner, the Republicans are
going to have to decide whether they want to take the blame for refusing
to act on behalf of our veterans.

This really is about what we are as a country. Do we take care of our
veterans, or do we move forward with efforts to defund the government so
it will drown in a bathtub? We have our choice of politicians who will
align themselves with one side or the other. In a democracy, it is up to
the voters to decide which politicians we want representing us. So, what
do we support, social solidarity or trashing of our revered government

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