[May 27, 2014] Many military veterans are angry by the “brewing scandal” at Veterans Administration hospitals – at least those that I talk to. I call it a brewing scandal because we know there are problems, but we do not yet know the extent of the bad or of the good. One of my first blog entries back in October last year at theLeaderMaker, was to write about my personal observations on a Veterans Hospitals I’d visited … and it wasn’t pretty.
We are hearing that some VA officials falsified information to hide how long military veterans were waiting to see doctors at VA hospitals. The focus seems to be that VA workers were coached on how to bypass the computerized wait-time tracking system and manipulate data; all to hide long wait times. There are claims that some veterans died as a result.
I read about many of the solutions being offered to fix the problem. Put aside for the moment that the full extent of the problem is yet to be uncovered, the solutions follow a common pattern in bureaucracies. There are three basic solutions: 1. Fire some VA officials, 2. Create new and improved processes for VA-provided health care, and 3. Allow some veterans to go outside the VA to seek private health care at government expense.
None of these political solutions will work and that is the real scandal at the VA.
The scandal that I’m talking about is that the VA health-care system is not designed to provide efficient and effective health care to veterans. No amount of improved processes will fix it because it cannot be fixed as designed. Regardless of how much anyone at a senior political leader level says otherwise, the current system is uncaring and indifferent to veterans. The scandal is that our politicians know it and they know that anything they have offered only affects the margins and will not solve the core problem.
The core problem with the VA is that their employees know they work for the government, not for the veteran.
No amount of tweaking the edges of the VA system will change this. VA workers know they are not accountable to the veteran. No matter how many veterans they help or the quality of the service provided, workers are paid the same for what they do. The problem for the VA worker is not getting good health care to the veteran but the veteran himself becomes the problem. There is no incentive to provide better services and this runs completely against how successful enterprises work.
Many VA workers are great folks and we are indebted to them for what they do. The VA’s problem is that relying on them to carry the workload of those who have no personal motivation or passion to do the right thing, is a big problem. Once hired in a government job, we all know that it is nearly impossible to get fired.
The VA will continue to provide poor health care as long as there is no incentive for its workers to do it better and as long as workers know they cannot be fired.
The VA scandal is only the tip of a very large iceberg, where government workers without incentives simply put in their time to collect a paycheck. No amount of posturing by politicians and no amount of news media print will change it. Our veterans will continue to receive inadequate quality health care and will be treated like cattle by uncaring government workers.
At the end of all this, the VA will be better and our military veterans will once again have served the nation by their sacrifices.
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