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DEBATE THIS: Should The Government Privatize The VA?
THE FACTS: Just over a year ago, a scandal at a hospital facility in Phoenix, Arizona, rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs and forced the resignation of its secretary, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki. Long wait times for appointments, secret wait lists, and a backlog of disability claims plagued the massive federal agency. Robert McDonald, the former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, now leads the VA and its more than 300,000 employees. Ultimately, the VA comprises the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States. But is the burden of bureaucracy too much? Should the government privatize the VA?
Michael Breen President and CEO, Truman Project and CenterU.S. Army, 2002-2006@M_Breen
The VA is a 20th century institution in desperate need of modernization and reform. Mismanagement and indignities suffered by veterans make for cheap political fodder on both sides of the aisle because they provoke legitimate outrage. Yet as is the case with many solutions that sound too good to be true, privatization would make the situation for our nation's veterans far worse.
Many veterans have injuries — physical and mental — atypical of civilian life, and they need the expertise of the doctors and nurses trained specifically by the VA. Individuals seeking treatment benefit from this specialized knowledge, and the medical field sees real results from funded and organized research into conditions like traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. Replacing this coordination with competition means that resources will be harder to come by and solutions will be harder to share.
Moreover, privatization would leave our veterans at the mercy of the markets, and we should not gamble with their health or well-being. One need look no further than for-profit "colleges" and predatory lenders for recent examples of how unscrupulous enterprises target veterans. With accountability already in dangerously short supply, it seems extremely unlikely that oversight would increase under a privately owned and operated system.
There is a lot of work to do at the VA; a single veteran waiting for healthcare is one too many. But modernization, not privatization, should be at the core of our efforts: standardizing medical record systems, facilitating interagency communication, and holding all employees accountable are all essential. Anything less would be a betrayal of the pact that the United States government made with those who served. The promise to care for our veterans should not be a casualty of today's anti-government political climate.
The solution isn't buck passing or tough talk — it's building a better VA.
Michael Breen is the President and CEO of the Truman Project and a former U.S. Army officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Matthew Randle Owner/Attorney, The Law Office of Matthew Randle, PLLCU.S. Army, 1998-2003@MatthewRandle
I'm not advocating for total privatization, I'm advocating to partially privatize a bureaucracy that has lost the ability to care for the people it exists to serve.
The VA isn't all bad; there are areas better handled at the VA than anywhere. Mental health, prosthetics, traumatic brain injury, social services for substance addicted, or homeless veterans — these are areas where the VA excels.
The provision of primary care, surgery, dentistry, optometry, and many other areas seem to be more than an incredibly funded VA can manage. During the Obama presidency, the annual VA budget has risen $65.9 billion a year, now reaching the absurd amount of $150.7 billion in fiscal year 2014.
The president appointed Bob McDonald to stop this waste after mismanagement killed veterans in Phoenix, Arizona, despite an enormous budget. McDonald was seen as the perfect candidate to turn things around because of his experience running an enormous private corporation. Faced with the restraints of federal bureaucracy, McDonald can't even fire the bad actors responsible for killing people and covering it up; he can't sell unoccupied buildings; and can't hire people because of congressional infighting. Oddly, the people McDonald keeps nominating are private sector executives who made their mark operating in the free market.
The VA faces no competition, the bad actors face no repercussions, and the status quo continues to be rewarded. The president has spent $235.4 billion more than his predecessor on the VA and we are at best in the same position as before.
Putting veterans in control of their care, letting them choose based on the quality of care they receive, and letting the market dictate good care is a far better use of taxpayer dollars, and certainly a far more effective way to ensure veterans are getting the care this nation promised.
Matthew Randle served as a medic in the Army from 1998-2003 and was a part of the invasion force in Iraq.
A sprawling new survey says a ‘culture of resilience’ helped US military families weather housing woes for years
A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.
The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."
Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.
What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.
"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."
Decorated Vietnam vet presents Purple Heart and Bronze Star to family of slain UNC Charlotte shooting hero
Hailed as a hero for knocking a shooter off his feet in a UNC Charlotte classroom, Riley Howell was posthumously awarded two of the military's highest honors in his hometown of Waynesville, North Carolina this week.
Howell, 21, and classmate Ellis "Reed" Parlier, 19, died when a gunman opened fire in their classroom in the Kennedy building on April 30.
CAIRO (Reuters) - After losing territory, ISIS fighters are turning to guerrilla war — and the group's newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.
In recent weeks, IS's al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.
The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.