VA Reform Doesn't Go Far Enough

VA Reform Doesn't Go Far Enough

When the federal government promises “reform,” there’s no guarantee things will get better (they generally don’t) but you can be certain it will spend more money.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald says he’s implementing “the largest restructuring in the department’s history,” and that seems to mostly mean allowing vets to look outside the VA for medical care. The federal government plans to spend some $10 billion enabling veterans to get treatment at a non-VA facility. Congress has appropriated an additional $5 billion to hire more doctors and nurses at the VA.

That’s an excellent step, of course. The government made a promise to those veterans. It vowed to provide quality health care. It should keep that promise. But this simply highlights that socialized healthcare isn’t the best way to keep that promise.

The Veteran’s Administration suffers from the same problem that plagues all socialized systems: Bureaucracy. Secretary McDonald says he’ll begin dealing with that problem by firing about 35 of the VA’s 250,000 employees. McDonald says that as many as 1,000 people could eventually be fired.

That number may, someday, even include Sharon Helman, the former head of the Phoenix VA. She’s been on paid leave since May — when CNN reported that at least 40 vets had died while waiting for care. At least 1,400 vets were on a secret waiting list to make it seem as if they were in line for treatment. Helman, meanwhile, remains on the government payroll.

It’s easier now for a veteran to get an appointment at a VA facility. That’s a positive step. But real reform will require imposing market solutions, to make healthcare better, less expensive and more easily available to vets. They deserve nothing less.