Throw­ing more money at VA won’t solve sys­temic prob­lems

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

Re­gard­ing the ed­i­to­rial “Be­yond the the­atrics of the VA scan­dal” (May 26, p. 24), you make some good points about the size and com­plex­ity of the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs sys­tem. How­ever, I was sincerely dis­ap­pointed by your last few para­graphs cry­ing about how VA ad­min­is­tra­tors are not paid enough money. Your sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion is cor­rect, but the pay scales have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with this scan­dal. For people will­ing to lie and cheat, pay­ing a lot more just makes the stakes big­ger. The only way to run a VA hospi­tal is to work your way up through the federal em­ployee bu­reau­cracy, and very few if any of those hospi­tal ex­ec­u­tives who get paid so much more would dream of do­ing that. Most of them could not even sur­vive in that en­vi­ron­ment where the ex­cep­tional are shunned. I know the vast ma­jor­ity of VA em­ploy­ees are hon­est and hard­work­ing, but they strug­gle con­stantly against ap­a­thy and dis­hon­esty that is al­lowed to roam unchecked.

The prob­lem is the federal bu­reau­cracy. As mul­ti­ple scan­dals (IRS, EPA pay bonuses, State Depart­ment and Beng­hazi) have ex­posed lately, there is no ac­count­abil­ity. This breeds slovenly work and cor­rup­tion. That is why the VA is a mess and will stay that way de­spite the ma­jor­ity be­ing hon­est and hard­work­ing.

I am truly dis­ap­pointed that you do not un­der­stand that. It is the fault of Congress and the grossly over­pro­tected sta­tus they have cre­ated for federal em­ploy­ees. Ad­vo­cat­ing Congress’ fa­vorite so­lu­tion of throw­ing money at prob­lems to make them go away will do noth­ing to fix the VA.

Ge­orge Dillinger Di­rec­tor of ma­te­ri­als Western Ari­zona Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter Bull­head City

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