As Seen In The Arizona Republic
By Matt Kenney
April 13, 2015
One year ago, The Arizona Republic revealed that dozens of veterans died while consigned to secret wait lists at the Phoenix VA hospital. This horrifying news was not just confined to Phoenix and we now know that the use of secret wait lists was a systemic problem across the entire Veterans Health Administration.
Where do we stand today? Despite the passage of a VA reform bill last summer and the appointment of a new VA Secretary, the agency is still failing in its mission to deliver timely health care to our veterans.
The VA’s leadership says things are better, but at the Phoenix VA, hundreds of veterans still wait longer than a month to see a doctor, according to the VA’s own data. The percentage of veterans waiting 30 days or more for an appointment has increased 3.5 percent since August across the entire system. Worse yet, many of those responsible for the secret wait lists have yet to be disciplined.
We shouldn’t have to wait another year for the VA to finally deliver on its commitment to our veterans. However, at the current rate of reform, there will likely be many more sad anniversaries of this disaster.
My organization, Concerned Veterans for America, has been advocating for real, systemic VA reform since our inception in 2012. We’ve had to fight tooth and nail for even the most modest reforms, and those have been undermined by the VA bureaucracy.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald and others have said the VA’s problem is a lack of funding. We disagree: The VA has received significant funding increases recently, going from a budget of $97.7 billion in 2009 to $163.9 billion in 2015. In addition, the VA has added over 100,000 employees since the beginning of the War on Terror. A lack of resources is not the problem at the VA.
The VA needs to fundamentally transform the way it delivers health care to our veterans. To that end, Concerned Veterans for America recently assembled the Fixing Veterans Health Task Force, which created a comprehensive set of reforms for the VA that we call the Veterans Independence Act.
The Veterans Independence Act would put veterans, not bureaucrats, in charge of their own health care. The Veterans Independence Act would give veterans the freedom to seek care outside the VA if they so choose. It would also turn the current VA health care system into a government-chartered non-profit corporation that would be free from much of the red tape that hinders innovation and flexibility with in the current VA integrated health care system.
In addition, the Veterans Independence Act would reorient the VA toward its original mission of caring for veterans with service-connected disabilities, a mission that unfortunately it has drifted away from.
We believe these reforms would ultimately help prevent more scandals like the one we saw at the Phoenix VA and other VA facilities across the country.
Matt Kenney, a decorated infantry officer, is the Arizona local director for Concerned Veterans for America.
For media inquiries, contact Emily Laird at email@example.com.
Concerned Veterans for America is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for policies that will preserve the freedom and liberty we and our families so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.