We’re Still Cleaning Up Bush’s Mess

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Documents released by the VA inspector general show that, while the problems currently plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs began in 1995 when incentives were created to reduce backlogs, it came to a head during the Bush administration which systematically failed to do anything about it.

The VA stands accused of using secret waiting lists that hide the true extent of the backlog for treatment, and the Bush administration knew about it in 2005.

via Mother Jones

These accusations echo the findings of a 2005 VA inspector general’s report that documented a raft of violations—including the widespread use of paper lists in place of the electronic ones to hide the glut of veterans awaiting appointments.

In 2005 the inspector general’s report recommend taking measures to end the secret waiting list and, amazingly, nothing was done about it.

Two years later, another inspector general audit found that the VA had failed to act on these recommendations and that schedulers were still using paper lists and other tactics to mask the backlogs.

Did the inspector general make a series of recommendations again? Yes. Were these recommendations acted on? No.

After taking office the Obama administration began to address the problem, but the stark reality is our system is overwhelmed.

Did Obama administration do enough? Maybe not. But consider this:

[The] Government Accountability Office found that Agent Orange cases consumed 37 percent of the VA’s claims-processing resources between October 2010 and March 2012.

You have to go a lot further back than the Bush administration to account for Agent Orange. Regardless, initiating a bloody war in Iraq based on lies and summarily screwing the pooch in Afghanistan only compounded the problem. And like they did with the $3 trillion bill for the war, the Bush administration also left scores of veterans off the books because their injuries were mental rather than physical.

The above statistic left me gobsmacked. I can only imagine how Secretary Shinseki must have felt being asked to resign because he couldn’t clean up a mess that’s been building since before I was born in the span of a few years.

Shinseki was tasked with the impossible while congressional Republicans blocked bills that would have increased funding for the VA and created dozens of new medical facilities.

The practice of doling out bonuses for reducing the patient back-log shows that private-sector solutions do not always work in a governmental setting. And the good news is former Secretary Shinseki eliminated bonuses today before he resigned.

“I cannot explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities,” he said. “This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do.” [...]

Shinseki said Friday that he has started the process of firing senior executives at the Phoenix facility that first prompted the massive inquiry and that he has eliminated bonuses for top VA staff system-wide.

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  • gescove

    I was disappointed to learn of Shinseki’s resignation. Offering up his own scalp hampers the ability to address the issues and won’t deter screeching Republicans. Now they smell blood in the water and believe they can avoid taking any responsibility. They also sense a chance with their usual shock doctrine/crisis capitalism tactics to advance their goal of privatization. They’ve starved the VA of desperately needed funds (“See, government run health care doesn’t work!). Emergency measures such as using private healthcare facilities to deal with the backlog will become permanent measures (“See, the private sector is so much more efficient!). And, unfortunately, many voters (manipulated by a 24/7 right wing noise machine, uninformed by a recklessly obtuse mainstream media, and stressed beyond caring by the rigors of simply getting by in an economy that is slipping from their grasp) will probably reward them for it. Goodnight nurse, at times like this I despise the GOP.

  • Mike Lumisch

    We are still cleaning up Bush’s messes, and for that matter we are still cleaning up Reagan’s messes.

    The instability that caused the great financial collapse in 2008 was baked into our economy through the obsessions unleashed after the election of 1980. People need to be reminded of this.

    The faux-radical saboteurs who advocate throwing elections to the Republicans, to teach the Democrats a lesson and force them to cede more power to the Irreconcilables, need to be reminded of this again and again and again. Because of the stupid asymmetries in America’s power structure, Left victories are few and hard won; Republican victories unleash the national Cundalini to run roughshod over the political landscape, roll back our precious advances and inflict new damage that must be repaired before any attention can be paid to new advances. This is unfair as all hell, but it’s the reality and the purity troll whining and complaining just feeds into the hands of the Bad Guys.

    So remember: a vote wasted on a third party vanity candidate is a vote for Republicans to destroy another bit of the America we love.

    If the Green Party spoiler campaign had not put Bush over the top in 2000, President Gore would not have made all those newly wounded veterans, so we would not today be in a squabble over the state of the VA, and we would have more time and energy to devote to enacting Single Payer Health and reining in the CIA.