Real blame for scandal belongs to Congress

The scandals involving some Veterans Administration hospitals are painful to witness. The head of VA handed in his resignation. As we speak, investigators are auditing VA hospitals and clinics around the country. Hopefully this sad chapter will alarm the public and result in genuine reforms being implemented by Congress. Although VA scandals are usually placed at the feet of the executive branch, the real blame belongs to Congress, with members of each party sharing culpability. Political decisions have trumped practical solutions throughout VA’s history. Budgets for waging war far outstrip monies being spent on returning service people. Our last two wars have lasted well over 10 years and have resulted in tens of thousands of returning vets requiring medical help every month. VA hospitals are full, clinics have long lines, and medical staffs are worked to exhaustion. Congress demanded reforms (always in front of cameras) in the past. One reform was a poorly planned efficiency incentive program that rewarded great statistics with pay raises and promotions. Instead of providing funds to implement efficiency reforms, the program fostered falsification of records so hospital administrations could “appear” to be improving. This country needs to realize if you feel you must go to war, you have to be ready to repair human damage war does to our young men and women. I am a vet. I receive health benefits from VA. My personal experience and that of my veteran friends has been very positive. The staff in the Alpena clinic is first rate and we have been treated with kindness and respect in all regards. The same has been true, for me, at the Saginaw VA Center and the hospital in Detroit. Please note our VA facilities are overwhelmed, underfunded, and understaffed by hard working, dedicated people trying to do an impossible job.

James O’Neil