I am a veteran who has gone to Ralph H. Johnson VA Hospital in Charleston and the VA hospital in Columbia since 1969. Recently on CNN I listened to Ed Rollins, who served in the Reagan administration and should know better, incorrectly and unfairly connect the VA system with the mess several years ago at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Since Walter Reed was an active-duty Army hospital, the mess had absolutely nothing to do with the VA, and yet the Department of Veterans Affairs got a huge black eye out of it. Let's finally get it straight.
As to the VA's current problems, I feel their most pressing needs are;
1) More money. (Surprise!) Countless dedicated doctors, nurses and clinicians stay on at VA hospitals and clinics year after year helping veterans for a pittance of what they could make elsewhere.
We the patients continually lose caregivers just when they become familiar with us and our cases.
As an example, all but one of the physicians at the clinic I go to left, leaving me and many others without a doctor at all for six to seven months.
Without a primary care provider you can't get referrals to clinics, renew prescriptions, get examined for new problems, etc. You're just left adrift in a system with no help. I suspect this is what happened with the 40 patients who are alleged to have died needlessly at the Phoenix VA hospital.
2) Bloated administration and unwarranted bonuses.
3) A 19th century records system. Every time I deal with civilian medical staff on a VA-related health matter, they shudder at the terrible shape VA files are in.
Could this possibly be one reason for the tremendous backlog of disability claims?
Until President Obama fixes this system the way he did the health care exchanges, the Department of Veterans Affairs is going to continue to spin out of control.
Just saying, "Take a look at this, will you, General?" isn't going to cut it any longer.
One issue that Mr. Obama ran on in 2008 was fixing problems at the VA.
How long does it take?
Gerald Mahle Jr.