Finally Cleaning House at the Vets Administration

Our veterans deserve better than the too often scandalous health care offered by the Veterans Administration. It’s an issue both Democrats and Republicans agree on.

Former Army paratrooper John McGlothin notes in the Washington Examiner the mission to reform the agency is long overdue.

For decades, veterans have traded stories of VA incompetence like they were military-exclusive baseball cards. We were told to wait for months for medical appointments, and resolving other problems was nearly impossible. The VA billing office was infamous for almost never picking up the phone, even after veterans spent hours on hold. Yet calling was your only option, as the VA treated email like an alien technology from a distant future.

Reinforcements finally appear to be on the way, thanks to the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act passed by Congress last summer. But veterans shouldn’t expect the latest reforms to turn out any better than previous failures unless the agency deals with the self-serving public employee unions on the ground.

Previous reform efforts had stalled due to complaints from unions public sector unions about changing the rules regarding which VA employees could be fired. Instead of protecting VA employees from unfairness, these rules made them invincible. Commit an armed robbery while working for the VA? Not only was your job safe, you were entitled to a years-long appeal process against any punishment, and to be paid – including bonuses – the entire time that your case was tied up in the system, including the time you spent in jail before pleading guilty.

Instead of rewarding employees who exposed secret lists of patients who never got appointments, the VA punished them more harshly than those who created the lists in the first place.

First objective? Clear the bureaucratic red tape that protects public union members more than their patients.

The VA reform legislation put an end to the worst aspects of this farce. It codified the agency’s office to protect whistleblowers and mandated training on the subject for all employees. It also gave the head of the VA more flexibility to discipline senior leaders and expedite the removal process for those being fired. As a result, over 1,500 underperforming employees have been let go, and more than 70 whistleblowers have been protected against retaliation for speaking out.

So far, so good. But why aren’t we hearing more about it, other than a shout out in the State of the Union speech? Business as usual in the Swamp, according to McGlothin.

This is bipartisan reform that has worked. Perhaps that is why, outside of a brief mention in the State of the Union speech, neither side is touting it — the credit would have to be shared. But VA reform was a noteworthy achievement on an important issue, and it should be remembered as such, especially as Congress struggles to find bipartisan solutions to the country’s many challenges.