Congress, Trump can improve VA
President-elect Donald Trump has made many promises during the more than a year he has been campaigning. He may have been reminded of one on Friday.
It was Veterans Day, an annual observance during which we Americans pause to remind ourselves of the many sacrifices made by those who have served in the military. We owe them much.
In too many cases, we do not deliver on the formal and unofficial promises we have made them.
During his campaign, Trump promised to implement reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He wants to ensure that those who served are treated properly.
High on Trump’s priority list is correcting what is wrong with the VA health care system. In a detailed position paper, he emphasized he wants to “ensure our veterans get the care they need, whenever and wherever they need it. No more waiting backlogs. No more excessive red tape.”
Let us be clear: The overwhelming majority of VA employees seem dedicated to providing veterans with quality health care. Most veterans praise both the quality and timeliness of the care they receive.
But a few do not. No one wants to be reminded of the scandal a couple of years ago, in which it was revealed some veterans were placed on wait-lists for weeks or even months. A few died waiting for the VA to help them.
That is unacceptable.
But the VA’s idea of reform is lacking, as no less an authority than the Government Accountability Office has reported.
Getting to the bottom of the gigantic VA health care bureaucracy will be difficult. With a $51 billion budget, it is the largest health care operation in the country, operating 168 hospitals and more than 1,000 outpatient facilities. It is a system that annually provides care for about 7 million veterans.
Trump’s 10-point plan will hold that bureaucracy accountable. It will punish irresponsible employees, while rewarding those who shine in service to veterans. That is the very type of management any bureaucracy resists.
With help from Congress, Trump can make the VA better. Lawmakers of both parties should be eager to help.
Veterans Day is a reminder of what those who served ensured for us: our freedom. It also would have been a good day for our president-elect to place VA reform near the top of his agenda.