As I watch the events unfold regarding the Veterans Administration scandal — certainly not a phony one – I’m waiting to hear a concrete plan of action and solutions.
We do not need any more studies, assessments and reports. We certainly don’t need another agency within the Obama administration investigating itself.
I’m also concerned about the number of retired military officers circling the wagons around, it seems, one of their own — retired former Chief of Staff, now Secretary of Veterans Administration, General Eric Shinseki.
What amazes me is that, in uniform, this type of abject and systematic failure over the past six years would have resulted in relief of command. However, it now seems there are different standards and measures of effectiveness in the quagmire we call government bureaucracy — I would have hoped the code of honor and integrity transcends the day one takes off the uniform.
In any event, here are five steps the administration should be taking (not holding my breath):
1. Change of management – I didn’t say leadership because it seems no one is leading and they are certainly mismanaging. But it begins at the top with the Secretary and must go to the senior levels where these issues are being raised.
Some will say leave Secretary Shinseki in place to fix the VA problems, it’s been almost six years and the problem has been exacerbated. Some believe (or hope) once there are resignations, the media will move on and this won’t be a hot topic anymore – that may apply to the fawning Obama liberal media but not the rest of us.
In that vein, we should be listening to our Veterans Service Organizations such as the VFW, American Legion, ROA, NAUS, AMVETS and MOAA as they are the true “voices of our veterans.”
General Shinseki and senior levels of the VA have lost the confidence of the veteran community. As a matter of fact, it seems he’s completely turned his back on it and become just another “Beltway Bandit” — forgetting his oath of office as a commissioned officer in exchange for political loyalties. We thank him for his countless years of service to our nation in uniform, but this is inexcusable.
2. Provide immediate relief with vouchers to civilian hospitals for proper care – of course this process will need scrutiny and tracking to ensure good stewardship of the taxpayer dollar — which we all would humbly want to see go to caring for those who have borne such a burden for this Republic. But the voucher program is not the panacea to solve the greater problem.
3. Develop regional “Centers of Excellence” – five to be exact: North, South, East, Midwest, and West, based upon veteran population concentration, focus resources for staffing and look at relationships with local private hospitals. As well, outpatient clinics should be part of these COEs and we should develop best practices for better automation as part of this initiative. I would say these would be our Tier IA Veteran care facilities and there should be a determination as to their coverage areas.
4. Provide local alternatives for remote areas – we need to assess the remote areas where our veterans need care and coverage and look at developing a process and a system whereby their first line of healthcare can come from a local private hospital. Again, there would need to be a system in place to track these individuals. Along with this comes a very well-trained and responsive system of “Help Centers” that can address issues and resolve them for our vets, and I don’t mean “we will get back to you.”
5. Improve record-keeping – if the Obama administration was so adept at contacting voters they should be able to develop a better automation system for records and caring of our veterans. It is imperative that we are able to quickly and seamlessly transition health records of those who have served in uniform, regardless of Active Duty or Reserve Component, into the VA system. No more drop-offs into the abyss.
You might have thought this would have been what President Obama would have articulated last week, instead of more faux outrage and lecturing about others taking responsibility.
And yes, something criminal has occurred within the Veterans Administration and the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, should conduct an independent investigation — or is it just not that important?
I always taught my young officers that any issues you bring to me must have at least once recommendation for a solution — above are just a few off the top of my head. And I don’t have an entire policy staff.
But I must ask, if the Obama administration, indeed government itself, is having a problem handling veterans healthcare, which is less than two percent of our American population, how do you think they’ll handle trying to manage the entire country’s healthcare?
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.
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