The summary of a White House report on the Department of Veterans Affairs is scathing, calling the agency’s culture “corrosive” and being run by managers who have little to no accountability.
The report says that the culture has severely impacted employee morale and affected the timeliness of care for our nation’s veterans, and it advocates tearing down and rebuilding the internal structure of the department to try and clean out the cultural and bureaucratic problems.
The findings of the report were presented to President Obama by the VA’s interim secretary, Sloan Gibson, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, who was directed by Obama to conduct a broader review of the Veterans Health Administration’s approach to access to care, and provide specific recommendations of how VA can make improvements to deliver the benefits and care veterans have earned.
“We know that unacceptable, systemic problems and cultural issues within our health system prevent veterans from receiving timely care,” Gibson said in a statement following the meeting. “We can and must solve these problems as we work to earn back the trust of veterans.”
Among the report’s findings, according to one account:
- The VA acts with little transparency or accountability and many recommendations to improve care are slowly implemented or ignored. Concerns raised by the public, monitors or even VA leadership are viewed by those responsible for VA’s health care delivery as “exaggerated, unimportant, or ‘will pass.’ “
- The VA’s lack of resources is widespread in the health care field as a whole and in the federal government. But the VA has been unable to connect its budget needs to specific outcomes.
- The VA needs to better prepare for changes in the demographic profile of veterans, including more female veterans, a surge in mental health needs and a growing number of older veterans.
“[The report shows] the White House has finally come to terms with the serious and systemic VA health-care problems,” said Jeff Miller (R-FL), chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The report also says the VA needs to hire more doctors and other health-care professionals, a costly proposition and one that Congress is struggling with as it tries to pass a bill aimed at fixing the scheduling and wait times crisis affecting veterans at VA hospitals and clinics.
Bloomberg news reports that according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate version of that bill would cost as much as $35 billion over 10 years while the House’s legislation would double VA health spending and cost as much as $44 billion over five years. A House-Senate conference committee will resume talks on crafting a final measure next month when Congress returns to Washington after its break for the July 4th national holiday.