One Simple Step to Fix Nearly Every Problem Facing VA Hospitals

va-hospitalThe scandals that have been plaguing VA hospitals have been fairly large in the news lately.  Everything from horrible stories of veterans dying as they waited on secret waiting lists to get treatment, to the general poor nature of the care they’re often provided. It’s simply unacceptable.

My mother is the caretaker for a veteran family member who requires a lot of medical care that’s been provided by the VA hospital here in Dallas. As someone who’s dealt with the VA on a near constant basis, I’ve seen how terrible these VA hospitals are operated.

In fact, I’m working on an article now that chronicles the last 3+ years of hell this family member has endured dealing with the Dallas VA hospital, and how their incompetence has directly resulted in a drastic reduction in his quality of life – and even nearly his death.

But fixing the problem with VA hospitals isn’t all that difficult.  I’ve seen firsthand why they’re so poorly run.

Funding!  

We have Vietnam vets who are now getting older who need more care, and we started two wars within the last fifteen years that resulted in tens of thousands of our brave men and women needing care when they got back.

But guess what – I don’t see many (if any) new VA hospitals being built.

I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  There’s one hospital here.  It’s ridiculous.  An area of over 6 million people and we have one hospital to care for our veterans.

And it’s not as if that hospital is overrun with staff considering it’s the only one in town, it’s actually understaffed.  Not only is it understaffed, but VA hospitals don’t exactly pay the best so you’re not exactly getting the most qualified people working in these facilities.

So just taking the DFW VA situation and putting it in a generic sense: We have one hospital for the entire metroplex, understaffed with underpaid workers who are overworked and, due to the lower range of pay, not always the most qualified people out there.

Nothing says “we care for our veterans” quite like not providing enough facilities to care for them, not staffing the hospitals properly to handle the volume of care needed, and then offering such a low rate of pay for most positions that these hospitals often attract unqualified health care workers.

Then we want to act “shocked” by the fact that these facilities aren’t properly run?

And don’t give me this, “See, this is what happens when the government gets involved in health care” nonsense.  This is what happens when good intentions aren’t properly funded.  If we were properly funding (and building enough of) these facilities, these horror stories would be far less common.

Though Republicans are clearly trying to pin this on the Obama administration.  That’s pathetic.  This problem has been a constant within the VA system for many years.  Though it’s clearly gotten worse as more and more Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans have flooded into the system in recent years.

But this problem can be fixed with adequate funding.  We need to make sure this country has enough facilities to care for these veterans; that these facilities are fully staffed to care for these veterans; and that these hospitals offer a rate of pay to lure better quality health care workers to work in these facilities.

Will any of this happen?  Probably not.  It’ll turn into a partisan issue where each side points the finger at the other and in the end hardly anything will get done.  This isn’t a “Republican issue” or a “Democrat issue,” it’s an American issue.  It’s time we all stand up and demand that the VA system get adequate funding to provide the care that these veterans desperately need and deserve.

Unfortunately for many of these politicians, “supporting our troops” seems to be something they like saying but they just don’t seem to do.


Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • schwarherz

    Not only are there very few VA hospitals, the VA is actively trying to CLOSE some of the few that they have. Case-in-point, the town I was raised in, Hot Springs, South Dakota. That VA provides care for the veterans in the rural area around it and the town itself essentially exists because of the VA. However, the VA has been systematically cycling it down for the last decade or so to the point that they have a bare-bones staff with minimal beds occupied per night. They did that purely so that they could now say it’s not serving enough people to warrant keeping open. The town came together and sent in a proposal to use it as a PTSD clinic among other things to take advantage of its rural setting. The VA then proceeded to slate the town’s plan for a different VA and continue the process of closing down that hospital, all the while telling the town and the South Dakota congressional delegation (one of which is Tim Johnson, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee) that they had “no concrete plan” for what to do with the facility despite allocating funds in their budget for BUILDING A NEW FACILITY (with much lesser capabilities) in a town an hour away that would be less able to serve the rural veterans that the Hot Springs VA serves.

  • Deborah

    Actually it would be more cost effective to close all VA hospitals and provide them with a card like Medicare to go to any hospital they want to.

    • John

      Actually they would not get the care they need at a private hospital. Most of them don’t want a vet in their beds. Many of them are suffering from various mental illnesses as well as physical illness and the staff in a private hospital does not want to deal with that. And many vets do not trust private hospitals; they would rather go to a VA. I know because my partner worked for the local VA hospital.

    • Jerry

      Deborah, you have hit it on the head. Use ,the hospitals as vets under the retirement age, all over that age should be given coverage under Medicare and insurance to cover Medication and the extra that Medicare doesn’t cover! This would ease travel expenses and broaden the area needed for vets. As they now say, HOO-RA Deborah!

  • jalbertini

    It would help to close all VA hospitals and
    let vets get care at their local hospitals. Obviously the GOP would have
    to approve taxing the wealthy to spend much more $$$ to cover the huge
    need they have created (Bush wars!) and are failing to meet! Local care
    would be better care than understaffed, underfunded VA hospitals many
    miles from home!

  • janice

    Same thing in nursing homes, underpaid over worked staff. The acuity level has increased as people are living longer with more complicated illnesses. The large population of baby boomers starting to come to nursing homes as they have age related illnesses. Congress is well aware of this yet I don’t see improvements. Only on paper, everything loooks good on paper..

  • A-frakking-Men, Allen. I work at the VA and know what you’re saying is spot-on. We’re understaffed at our pharmacy and are trying to hire pharmacists and techs; we’ve had several candidates turn down offers because the pay simply isn’t good enough. There’s a regular churn of providers for much the same reason. Meanwhile, there’s the same amount of people in the hospital and nursing home, and the same amount of people coming through the emergency room.

    I know conservatives complain about the government throwing money at problems, but in this case, that would be a good first step.

    • Jason Schilling

      I work at the VA and couldn’t agree more. The way we schedule makes it look like the vets are getting in when they want and this simply isn’t the case. My VA doesn’t “cook the books” but they definately manipulate the data to make it look better than it is. This is a problem because then we don’t get additional staffing. As soon as they linked bonuses to the hospital execs when they meet scheduling quotas, this was bound to happen. They will always make sure they get their $.

  • FD Brian

    I find it ironic that most government jobs pay better than equivalent jobs in the private sector, except in the VA. WTF?

  • KEW

    My husband was a veteran who served in Vietnam. When he developed prostate cancer he went to the main office of the VA hospital here in Portland, Oregon. He was told that he made too much money and to come back in a year. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a year left. He said when he joined the air force he was told how the VA would always be there when needed. Besides the birth of our daughters this was the only time he shed tears.

  • Jim Bean

    Allen says, “This is what happens when good intentions aren’t properly funded.” Quinn’s laws of leftism #10 says, “Liberals never think what they are doing is wrong, they only think they haven’t done enough of it yet or it is underfunded.” When you throw rationality out and make policy decisions based on ‘good intentions’ alone, this is inevitably the result. Liberals think the GOP has a bag of seeds that grow money trees and won’t share them.

  • Matthew Reece

    It would be better to have veterans go to regular hospitals for the sorts of ailments that plague everyone and have other hospitals that deal specifically with battle-related injuries and illnesses.

  • Bill BobinJoe

    Thanks for the laugh. I expect bullshit, but this was worse than I expected. Liberals always like to blame the lack of funding for why government run programs suck, but this article doesn’t list a SINGLE numerical fact. How the hell do you expect me to believe the VA is underfunded (it isn’t, spending has been increasing for years) when you don’t cite anything to support your ideas?