Changes are necessary at the Veterans Administration — there is no question.
After another report surfaced this past week showing more than 200 veterans died waiting to see a specialist while under the care of the much-scrutinized Department of Veterans Affairs, it is time something meaningful gets done. How tragic that these soldiers survived war and terrible situations on behalf of our great country, only to die waiting for medical care in their own country.
The problem with all the suggestions flying around since the latest report came out is that the next president, whoever that person will be, is unlikely to make significant changes — at least the ones that matter. This isn’t because of the lack of public outcry or a lack of desire to change the pathetic state of the VA hospital system.
It’s because no one has yet talked about the kind of changes that will fix this very broken system.
And that won’t happen until those responsible for the problems are fired — immediately.
Repairing the Bureaucracy
Hundreds of people are responsible for the poor treatment of patients who are still working at the VA, including incompetent managers. That is the real scandal. Not until members of senior management are fired — or senior management has the authority to fire someone else, or middle management is able to fire an incompetent or ineffective working below them — will this system have any chance of being repaired.
The only possible way to build a strong veterans hospital system is accountability. And the only accountability that anyone will understand is that if they don’t do the job they are being paid to do — with efficiency and at the highest standards possible — they lose that job.
The idea that it takes an act of Congress to fire anyone or that the federal government can reform itself is as ridiculous as anyone believing this broken system can be fixed without holding accountable the people responsible for creating the mess.
Confident care for our veterans will come only with competency, conscientiousness, and compassion.
This is not a problem that has been created only by incompetent people. It has been created by incompetent management that the government has imposed on those in charge of this system. And if the people in charge are not capable of making the proper changes, then they should be the first ones fired.
Skilled Executives Needed
The VA system needs a competent business executive who understands what it takes to turn it around — the kind of leader who understands that its people are its greatest asset, and that the people working in the system are the ones who ultimately will be responsible for the success of caring for our veterans.
The VA also needs someone who understands that when the system — and those in charge who are perpetrating this substandard service — continues to fail veterans, then the system must be changed. And at the highest form of leadership, we need a president who understands that fact and makes it possible for this kind of true change to happen, and quickly.
Confident care for our veterans will come only with competency, conscientiousness, and compassion, and that will be possible only with commonsense changes that are free of politics. Unfortunately, such methods are not standard government operating procedure.
Dan Celia is president and CEO of Financial Issues Stewardship Ministries Inc., and host of the nationally syndicated radio and television program “Financial Issues ,” heard daily across the country on the National Religious Broadcasters Network, BizTV, and Dove-TV.