EDITORIAL: Don’t bail out VA, privatize it

Can things get even worse at the Department of Veterans Affairs? Of course they can. This is the federal government, after all.

The VA‘s repeated and costly construction boondoggles are mind-boggling enough, but they‘re nothing compared with the institutional incompetence, arrogance and corruption that delays and denies care to veterans.

Just how long are some veterans waiting for care? An eternity. Literally.

According to an internal VA document obtained by The Huffington Post, more than 238,000 of the 847,000 veterans with pending applications for health care through the VA already have died. The document, compiled by VA staffers and provided by a specialist at the VA‘s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, shows 238,000 veterans applied for health care but died before receiving it.

A VA official responded by saying that some in pending status might have never completed their applications or decided to use other health care options. But the whistleblower who provided the document said the health records system cited by the official to rebut the allegations contains general health records, not pending applications for enrollment in health care.

It should also be noted that this list of untreated veterans is unrelated to the backlog of untreated veterans that made national headlines last year. In that case, wait lists were falsified to allow VA executives to collect bonuses.

The inefficiencies get worse. The VA now says it might have to shut down some of its hospitals next month if Congress fails to address a $2.5 billion shortfall for the current budget year. The VA also is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other steps to balance its spending. But it would prefer to have Congress dip into funds allotted to the new Veterans Choice program. The program, which was the centerpiece of a VA overhaul approved last year, helps veterans get federally paid medical care from doctors of their choice outside the VA system. The agency wants to use up to $3 billion from the program, with as much as $500 million going to treat hepatitis C.

So, in stomach-churning summary: On one hand, the VA attempts to downplay the fact that veterans are dying while waiting to be enrolled in benefits because they can get care elsewhere. On the other hand, the agency wants to use the funds recently allocated by Congress to provide out-of-system care —€” which would allow veterans to escape the VA and its increasingly terminal delays —€” to bail out the system before it has to close its overpriced hospitals.

The VA is corrupt. It‘s getting worse, and it‘€™s nearly impossible to fire anyone responsible. As we‘ve written time and time again, it‘s time to shut the whole thing down. We need to sell the VA‘s hospitals to private companies and privatize the entire operation. Our veterans deserve better.

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