The current outrage over the state of affairs at Veteran’s Affairs hospitals across the country is nothing more than political gamesmanship on both sides of the aisle. And the comments by the most vocal legislators betray exactly that. Congresspersons such as Mark Udall (D- Colorado) are looking for a head to roll to clear the way for their own re-election. They managed to force the resignation of Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric Shinseki, all in the name of rectifying terrible injustice done to our veterans.
Let’s start with what everyone can agree on. Our veterans do not get the care that they need and deserve. With confirmed reports of falsified records and deliberate waiting-list abuses, it is entirely clear that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is failing the people they aim to serve. But this is not a new issue any more than Social Security is a new issue. We have been treating our veterans poorly since World War II and before. And chopping the head off of the VA is not going to solve any problems, except the problem of how embattled incumbents in the House and Senate ensure re-election by calling for it. It wouldn’t even be so egregious if in their condemnations these representatives didn’t admit that the problems are larger than one person. Mr. Udall claims, “[t]he systemic problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are so entrenched that they require new leadership to be fixed… Secretary Shinseki must step down.” If they are so entrenched, they require more than new leadership to be fixed. We get to hear the truth from a Congressman with relative job security, Speaker of the House John Boehner, when he said “[t]he question I ask myself is, ‘Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find out what’s really going on?’ And the answer I keep getting is no… This is more than just about phony waiting lists. This is also about the quality of care we provide for our veterans.”
Some heads will roll. Some small reforms may or may not get proposed and make it through committee, or in a surge of unlikely compromise some bills may get passed. But be assured that the indignation over this “scandal” is merely a performance.