Corruption at the VA

Corruption at the VA

Gingrich Productions
February 26, 2014
Newt Gingrich

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Obamacare so far has been a disaster of incompetence, with the federal government bungling critical parts of the implementation. This experience hasn’t shaken the left’s confidence in big government bureaucracy, however. Many liberals believe Obamacare is failing because the government takeover didn’t go far enough. What we really need, they explain, is a single-payer system–one run entirely by the bureaucrats.

Anyone tempted to experiment further with government-run health care should pay close attention to the reports of outrageous behavior at another federal bureaucracy in the business of providing medical care, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Daily Caller revealed audio recordings this week showing that VA employees in Los Angeles willfully destroyed patient medical records in order to eliminate their atrocious backlog.

“We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams,” a whistleblower told the Caller. “Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog.”

Waits were six to nine months or more (some back to 2001), the former employee said. The VA hospital couldn’t simply let the backlog grow, so officials there “solved” the problem by ordering the old appointment requests–and any record of them–to be deleted, as if the veterans had never tried to schedule their exams.

”It’s a numbers thing,” he said. “The waiting list counts against the hospital’s efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam, that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

As Senator Tom Coburn pointed out on the Senate floor yesterday, the purpose of this misconduct must have been “so that when they do the metric on how far behind they are, we cannot measure it.”

That’s because the VA, along with everyone else, recognizes that the backlogs themselves are scandalous. That veterans who have devoted years of their lives to serving this country, many of them in difficult or dangerous situations, would be forced to wait months for medical examinations is disgraceful.

To conspire to destroy their records, however, is absolutely deplorable. The officials who ordered that deserve to go to jail.

But more importantly, it should never have been possible for VA officials to destroy or manipulate patient health records, even if they wanted to. At the VA (and everywhere else, too), we need to adopt the principle that you own your health records, and you grant medical professionals access to them.

In the age of smartphones and the Internet, it should be possible to securely carry and transmit your medical records using a mobile device. No one, the government least of all, should have the power to erase them.

We also urgently need to apply modern management techniques to the VA to clear the backlogs and better serve our veterans. Data about patient care should be reported continuously to surface bottlenecks and to allow resources to be shifted or new systems developed to solve the problems.

The current VA is hopelessly bureaucratic and stuck in the past. It should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks the bureaucrats could competently manage the entire health system. The government is already charged with caring for millions of veterans and the results are tight budgets, backlogs, corruption, unaccountability, and waiting times of a year or more.

Our veterans–and all Americans–deserve better.

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