So we’ve heard from our friends at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs about the great work they’re doing over there, about how this is the best administration in history on veterans’ healthcare. Well, let’s take a closer look at the numbers, shall we?
During the years 2008-2012, the VA hired THREE TIMES more administrative staff than medical doctors. This news won’t be a surprise to any veteran who has been told to wait for an appointment.
The VA added 3,100 medical doctors since 2008, and to “manage” their work, the VA added more than 9,000 new administration employees.
Barack Obama is more interested in hiring paper-pushers than doctors. But paperwork doesn’t treat patients. Maybe that’s why the VA Inspector General told Congress the VA was gaming the numbers so it looks like 94% of veterans can be seen within 14 days.
The actual number, according to the VA Inspector General, is less than 50%. How many veteran suicides occurred during the delays in reaching care? Those new administrator positions must have been mighty valuable. Barack Obama knows the VA is not getting the job done. But he doesn’t care. Maybe that’s why the VA’s so-called Performance and Accountability Report claimed 95% of veterans who asked for a mental health evaluation were seen within 14 days. The VA Inspector General called FOUL on that report and gave the real figure: 64%.
In the Obama administration, the VA’s proverbial suicide hotline is putting veterans on hold.
Delays in mental health care were so bad that in July 2011, Democratic Senator Patty Murray told the VA about complaints from her constituents. She asked the VA to interview their own employees about delays in receiving care. The interviews showed more than 70% of respondents said their hospital or clinic lacked sufficient mental health staff. In an April 2012 hearing, Senator Murray said the VA’s own investigation showed clinicians were “delaying follow up for months, not because of the veterans’ needs but because their schedules were too full. VA is failing to meet its own mandates for timeliness and instead is finding ways to make the data look like they are complying.”
Senator Murray, remember, is a Democrat.
Even more damning is the IG’s statement that the VA’s performance measure for measuring access to mental health care is utterly useless because it “measured how long it took to conduct the mental health evaluation, not how long the patient waited to receive that evaluation.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, another Senator far friendlier to Democrats than Republicans, asked if VA administrators could explain why the VA can’t follow its own rules for scheduling appointments. The IG replied that at two different VA facilities, the clinic staff were told by supervisors to first check for an available appointment date, back out of the computerized scheduling system, then re-enter the system and indicate that the first available date was the date when the veteran wanted to return. This method makes the VA appear to have all the appointment times it needs.
Senior VA administrators receive bonuses when veteran appointments are scheduled within the VA-mandated time frames. These instructions to the scheduling staff look like senior VA executives were gaming the system for executive bonuses.
Every month, 950 veterans treated by VA attempt suicide. 18 veterans die every day by suicide, and about 12 of those 18 are not receiving VA care. That’s about 30 suicide attempts per day, every day, every month, and 12 deaths of veterans who are not seen at a VA. But Barack Obama doesn’t want to spend money on hiring mental health care employees, so what’s a delay of a few weeks until the next appointment. Veterans and military usually vote Republican. Maybe the White House told the VA to put a busy signal on veteran attempts to get help. We’ve all heard elected leaders complain about the Wall Street douchebags and their corporate bonuses. Wall Street’s negligence didn’t contribute to daily suicide. The same can’t be said for Obama’s VA. It’s Obama’s budget that claimed to have all the VA funding it needed.
Under the Obama administration, the VA also fattened up their Washington headquarters, adding 885 new bureaucrats at a cost of $91 million dollars. What do these new Washington bureaucrats do for veterans? They spend taxpayer dollars on bonuses for a select few VA employees. The VA Inspector General investigated these bonuses paid to a few selected bureaucrats at VA headquarters and found 79% of the bonuses could not be justified.
Barack Obama’s hand-picked VA Secretary defended these bonuses. A VA fact sheet explained how Obama’s chosen VA leader started a “corporate approach to executive management,” including a new human resources office exclusively for top VA executives. The VA sure got what it was looking for: special treatment for only the top VA executives, nice financial bonuses for those who are more special than VA employees whose pay has been frozen for two years, and more administrator jobs.
Perhaps one of the new 356 employees in human resources at VA headquarters will fix this issue. Do the math: for every 10 new medical doctors hired by VA, the headquarters staff fattened by another HR employee. The VA hospitals have their own HR people; they’re included above in the 9,000 new administrative employees.
Secretary Shinseki sure does need HR help if he added 356 new human resources employees for only 529 other new headquarters jobs. What could 356 new HR employees do all day? Evaluate each other on how well they completed yet another required training course? How many more psychologists and social workers could have been hired with that money?
Let’s ask some of the 30 veterans who attempt suicide each day.
Who’s losing? The veterans waiting in line at their local VA.
Who already lost? The surviving family members of the veterans who died by suicide.
1. VA OIG Report 10-02887-30, Retention Incentives for Veterans Health Administration and VA Central Office Employees, 11/14/2011
2. VA OIG Report 12-00900-168, Review of Access to Mental Health Care, 4/23/2012
3. Suicide Prevention Testimony at House Veteran Affairs Committee, 2/2/2011,
available at http://www.va.gov/OCA/testimony/hvac/sh/HVAC02DEC.asp
4. Hearing before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee of the US Senate, VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating Access and Assessing Care, 4/25/12 VA Budget Analysis Highlights from the FY 2013 AND FY 2014 budget document, Volume II (informatics and health care) available at: http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/Fy2013_Volume_IIMedical_Programs_Information_Technology.pdf