The latest in a series of government scandals is the alleged widespread corruption uncovered within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since the handling by Veterans Administration hospitals of injured military service members was recently disclosed in Arizona, the focus by many news outlets has been to uncover the extent of the scandal. Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, has undergone a grilling by House lawmakers in an effort to identify critical details. To date, federal probes revealed at least 42 Veterans Hospitals were engaged in schedule tampering, compiling secret wait lists, and other nefarious activities that placed veterans at risk. It is alleged that scores of deaths have resulted from this mishandling and some 1,700 veterans at the Phoenix VA alone were never added to the official electronic treatment waiting list which resulted in the understatement of average wait times for patients.
It can fairly be anticipated that the concentration of attention will eventually turn political with the upcoming mid-term elections in play. After the difficulties with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act website for people to obtain health insurance, parallels will naturally be drawn between the government’s inability to manage an existing bureaucracy like the Veterans Health Administration and the embattled Affordable Care Act. Since both systems would be classified as government controlled health care, the stretch would not be a long one. Secretary Shinseki is on record stating, “We are not waiting to set things straight.” However, thus far there has been little evidence forthcoming from the VA that identifies the who, what, when, where, how, and why things went so wrong. That information may be essential before corrective measures can be taken. The Secretary is just the latest in a growing list of department heads to come under scrutiny in the Obama Administration and it may be too soon to speculate what, if any, consequences will be handed down.
The fact remains that there is much work to do in determining the extent of the problem and perhaps more importantly, the focus should be placed on the cause. Onlookers, however, are familiar with the manner in which the Obama Administration has confronted past scandals. Politics, Congressional hearings, and playing the blame game are likely to impede any speedy resolution and it will be another setback to our veterans to receive the care they have earned and deserve.
The political fallout from this scandal will eventually be focused on President Obama and his Party. The fact that it is military veterans who have been victimized by the very system in existence with the specific purpose of supporting them has outraged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. As the New York Post reports, VA hospitals have been plagued by scandal over several Administrations, and points the finger squarely on a health care system that is managed by the government. Especially concerning is that in 2008, then Senator Obama was a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee and included VA hospitals in his campaign platform. After the election, President Obama’s staff was briefed on these wait times. Government management and oversight of departments like the Internal Revenue Service, the National Security Agency, Department of Justice, the Department of State, and now the Department of Veterans Affairs are just a few examples being cited by critics of how government has failed.
The increasing number of new scandals within the Obama Administration, and particularly this latest one that has tragically resulted in the loss of veterans’ lives, have every American demanding better from their government. Eric Shinseki and partisan politics aside, there are some things that most would find difficult to judge as anything other than patently wrong no matter which direction the probe is focused. The bulk of the rhetoric coming from the White House amid all of these scandals is President Obama looking at the American people and telling them he is mad, angry and upset,,that he is going to get to the bottom of it, and that those responsible will be held accountable.
President Obama promised the American people that his would be the most transparent presidency in our history. It appears that he is exactly right. Americans are in the midst of the latest example of transparency that has come to typify the way government conducts itself. America and especially her veterans under Secretary Shinseki, have a crystal clear understanding of exactly what to expect. Many simply see a president claiming ignorance, claiming to be mad, claiming he will get to the bottom of the issue, and claiming that those responsible will be held accountable. The only problem with those claims is that they have yet to be realized. The current situation has left a large number of citizens feeling that this is an example of inefficiency of government at best, and corruption at worst, at the expense of American lives and taxpayer dollars.
Opinion by Mark Politi