While Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald takes heat over his comparing of veteran wait times for health care to waiting in line at Disney parks, veterans groups say there hasn’t been much progress since the wait time scandal first erupted two years ago.
“Not much has changed,” said Concerned Veterans of America Analyst Shaun Rieley, who served ten years in uniform and did tours in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
But Rieley says anyone looking for quick or easy fixes will be disappointed.
“There’s just real structural issues at the VA that can’t really be fixed in a couple of years and can’t really be fixed by just the changing of the secretary,” said Rieley.
“A lot of these problems are systemic to the VA system overall. There’s a problem with VA being flexible enough to meet the demands of veterans as demographics change, as they move around, as they age and require more care,” said Rieley.
He says there are two major problems that endanger the health of veterans, starting with just getting into the system.
“Delayed care is denied care and denied care is bad care,” said Rieley. “It’s disingenuous to say the care is really great if you can get it. Part of the meaning of great care is being able to have access to it,” said Rieley.
But is the care always great once you get access? Rieley says that’s another problem.
“Part of the problem is it’s so inconsistent, whereas in one area the VA might be really, really great but in another area it might be really poor quality,” said Rieley.
He says the whole VA system stifles progress.
“I think they are set up to fail. No matter how good their intentions are, the structure of the system too often undermines their ability to do their job,” said Rieley.
Concerned Veterans for America is encouraging presidential hopefuls and members of Congress to pursue restructuring of the VA.
“We recommend VA be pulled out of the Office of Personnel Management system, a federal government-controlled system for civil service, and that the governance be put in the hands of a non-profit-style board of directors,” said Rieley.
“It would bring a lot more accountability to the employees. It would allow it to function as a health care system that is chartered by and funded by the federal government, rather than a bureaucracy that is attempting to give health care,” said Rieley.