When I read about the VA "scandal" involving alleged falsification of patient wait times and related issues, there is a tickle in the back of my head that says "don't forget the IRS, Benghazi and Fast and Furious "scandals."
Now no one with a passing understanding of the VA would suggest that it does not have problems. It has always had problems. And while President Obama and Eric Shinseki have done much to improve the VA it still has funding, organizational and personnel issues that must be dealt with. And it may also have intentional misconduct by employees.
But it is important to keep in mind that according to the 2013 American Consumer Satisfaction Index patients at VA facilities express the same levels of satisfaction with their care as do patient in private facilities.
The [VA] health system earned overall satisfaction indexes of 84 for inpatient care and 82 for outpatient services, while the U.S. hospital industry earned scores of 80 and 83 in those categories, respectively.In addition,
Veterans overwhelmingly expressed positive views about customer service at VA health centers, with more than 90 percent survey respondents indicating favorable opinions for inpatient and outpatient care.The President has said that if the allegations about falsified records prove true he will not stand for it. He assigned his Deputy Chief of staff to investigate the allegations and report to him promptly. The President is waiting for additional reports from the VA Inspector General and Secretary Shinseki. But he does not want to act until there are actual facts demonstrating misfeasance or malfeasance, and not just whistleblower allegations and newspaper accounts.
Ninety-two percent of respondents said VA medical providers are highly courteous, while 91 percent said the same of appointment personnel. Additionally, more than 95 percent of the survey takers said they would use a VA medical center the next time they need care.
Not only is that what any sensible President would do but there is good reason for the President or anyone else to not jump to conclusions. Remember the allegations of political motivations in the IRS "scandal" that all of the media and the Republicans in Congress jumped on, allegations that far too many Democrats put credence into. Well, all of them proved to be false. But the political damage, which was in part abetted by Democrats, had already been done. The same type of hyperventilation surrounded the Fast and Furious non-scandal and the Benghazi non-scandal.
Once again, the VA has problems and the investigations will reveal some of them. But caution should be exercised before jumping to conclusions, and here's a little example as to why. The most explosive allegation so far is that forty veterans died while waiting for care. While the VA IG's investigation is not complete this is what he said at a House hearing last week
"We didn't conclude, so far, that the delay caused the death," said Richard Griffin at a Senate hearing Thursday on the state of the VA's health care. "It's one thing to be on a waiting list, it's another for that to be the cause of death."So when the news reports go ballistic, fed by Fox and their friends in Congress, thoughtful people should not get caught up in the frenzy. If there is proven wrongdoing or incompetence Democrats should be at the forefront of holding people accountable and solving the problem. But until then, remember IRS, Benghazi and Fast and Furious.
Whistleblowers and the House Committee on Veterans Affairs have said as many as 40 veterans might have died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix system. Mr. Griffin said his office was reviewing multiple lists of veterans whose deaths allegedly occurred while waiting for appointments.
His office has already reviewed 17 of these cases, Mr. Griffin said, and hasn't found a single instance of a patient death because of excessive wait time.