Bioethics Blogs

To Properly Care for Veterans, Do We Really Need a VA Health System?

The
ongoing VA scandal is indeed unfortunate and sad. In a speech on May 30, 2014,
in Washington, DC, Eric K. Shinseki apologized for the “systemic, totally
unacceptable lack of integrity” shown by some administrators in managing the Veterans
Administration health care system hospitals and clinics.
Within hours of the apology, Secretary Shinseki resigned.

It
is clear that the trouble within the VA has been brewing for some time. The
fuse that set off this latest explosion may have been
whistleblower claims that
managers at the Phoenix VA Medical Center were keeping two sets of books which
logged wait times for veterans seeking primary care appointments. There are allegations that some of the delays resulted in veteran deaths.
Acting VA Inspector General Richard J. Griffin issued a
preliminary report
confirming that Phoenix VA administrators had manipulated wait times possibly
to assure more favorable annual performance reviews and higher bonuses and
compensation for staff.  The unethical behavior by those entrusted with the care of our veterans is
inexcusable.

So,
the question again: Does America really need a separate VA Health System to
properly care for veterans? It may be a far-fetched idea, particularly since
we’ve had a stand-alone health system for veterans in America since World War
I. To some it may even sound unpatriotic and disrespectful. It’s not meant to
be. But, it’s a very practical question given the America today as compared to
the US of 75 years ago when the Veterans’ Bureau (as the VA was called then)
was first established. After World War I, the federal government was not in the
health care delivery business to any great degree.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.