The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced its plan to support 500,000 eligible women with health benefits—an appropriate measure for these former service members. But the VA—inept, bloated, and incapable of properly organizing itself—is the wrong federal agency to deliver these much-needed services. Its repeated failures and scandals suggest that it should no longer be entrusted with the care of those who have served America in the armed forces.
|Steve attended the United States |
Naval Academy at Annapolis
Several years ago, headlines exposed stories of veterans dying due to delayed care. In 2015, the VA issued a report admitting that 307,000 veterans had died while waiting for the agency to process their enrollment requests. This followed stories of 40 veterans dying, with more than 1,400 more waiting for appointments, at VA health-care facilities in Phoenix. In an elaborate scheme, VA managers tried to cover up their malfeasance.
The VA’s track record on treatment, as shown not only by these recent scandals but by its response to Vietnam War veterans afflicted by the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, suggests a continued legacy of inadequate care, negligence, and incompetence. Two recent court decisions show that the VA is making matters even worse.
The first, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, reversed a previous decision by the same court. In 2008, the appeals court had ruled that some 90,000 Navy sailors who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but never actually set foot on land were ineligible for Agent Orange-related benefits. (The court eventually reversed itself.) The second decision, by a federal district judge in Los Angeles, dismissed a whistleblower’s charges that the private contractor responsible for reviewing veterans’ files had defrauded the government by doing a slapdash job.
The common denominator in both cases was the VA’s disinterest. The VA didn’t believe the “blue water” sailors should be eligible for the benefits, and it trotted out low-level bureaucrats to argue that the contractor had done an acceptable job. In both cases, it was clear that the VA did not prioritize the veterans’ best interests.
Sadly, this fits a pattern. It wasn’t until 1986, following class-action lawsuits, that the VA even admitted that Agent Orange caused problems, beyond acne. Since then, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and numerous types of cancer have been linked to Agent Orange. Some 2.6 million service members were exposed to the defoliant, and to date, the government has paid more than $4.5 billion to veterans and their surviving family members.