Accountable: VA problems require stronger oversight

Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs demonstrated once again the federal government’s inability to serve the healthcare needs of American citizens — in this case, Americans who deserve the best care our nation can give to them, but instead are still being horribly mistreated.

“When you have systemic failure on this level, management must be held accountable,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. The problem, of course, is that “management” is an entrenched group of politicians and bureaucrats who have been insulated from accountability for far too long.

As our nation’s veterans continue to be badly served by the very organization that was supposed to give them a sense of security — was supposed to serve their healthcare needs and offer the tiniest repayment for their service and sacrifice — the VA rather stubbornly refuses to learn the lessons of failure after failure exposed to the public. This time, according to the Associated Press, patients are being put at risk due to bad inventory practices from potentially dirty syringes to medical supply shortages.

A facility director was relieved of his duties, and a “broader review” of the situation was ordered … and the VA is probably hoping that is the last anyone will think about the matter.

But as the authors of a report on the situation point out “At least some of these issues have been known to the Veterans Health Administration senior management for some time without effective remediation.” The watchdog group that issued the report further expressed a “lack of confidence” that the VA would do much to fix the problem.

And why should they? For years now, reports have revealed potentially deadly problems like this in VA hospitals and clinics that would not be tolerated in a private facility. But they continue to be tolerated in government-run facilities that should be providing the highest level of care to those who gave their highest level of service to the rest of us.

Members of Congress are justifiably seeking greater oversight of the VA. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump had better be making clear to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin another “review” will not cut it, this time; and systemic improvement is needed. Now.