Monday, August 4, 2014

Shinseki’s Last Stand?

My article from the May 30, 2014 issue of FrontPage magazine:

Shinseki’s Last Stand?

By Matthew Vadum

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is one step closer to falling on his sword as the deadly, politically explosive VA health care scandal forces even Democratic lawmakers to demand his removal.

The added political pressure came after a new interim report by the VA’s inspector general determined that the agency’s officials were involved in a massive conspiracy to cover up the long, life-threatening delays that America’s veterans have been subjected to in the assembly-line abattoir that is the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

In the words of the report, which followed audits of 216 health-care centers, there was a “systemic” push by VA officials to conceal the long wait times veterans faced. Veterans in Phoenix, Ariz., waited 115 days on average for a primary care appointment, which far exceeds what official VA statistics indicated. At least 40 veterans have died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system. Many of the dead had been put on secret waiting lists.

It’s the latest chapter in this sad but entirely predictable unfolding of events. The needless deaths, doctored documents, and all-around incompetence, are what necessarily happen when the government runs a single-payer health care system. The VA health care scandal provides real-life examples to the American public of the unspeakable horrors that await them if the Obamacare train is not soon derailed.

After the report came out Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who had resisted demanding Shinseki step down, joined the growing, bipartisan chorus seeking the secretary’s removal.

“It’s time for Secretary Shinseki to step down,” McCain said at a press conference in Arizona. If he won’t leave, “then I call on the president of the United States to relieve him of his duties, fire him.” 

Undeterred, the former Army Chief of Staff is still trying to save his skin.

The retired general has been reaching out by telephone to Democrats on Capitol Hill yesterday, repeating his blame-shifting shtick and claiming to be outraged at the actions of his own agency that he is apparently unable to control.

As of yesterday afternoon, 11 Democratic senators facing reelection battles this year and several House Democrats had called upon Shinseki to resign, adding to the many GOP lawmakers who have demanded the secretary depart.

President Obama has claimed to support Shinseki in his current position but that support is lukewarm at best. “When it comes to the current situation . . . the president wants to see the results of these reports,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday. “He believes there ought to be accountability once we establish all the facts.”

The politically tone-deaf House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) continues to back the hapless Shinseki, siding with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Boehner said he will “continue to reserve judgement” on the VA secretary.

“Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find what’s really going on? And the answer I keep getting is no,” Boehner said, echoing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s infamous “what difference does it make?” comment on the Benghazi scandal.

“The president is going to need to step up here and show some real leadership,” Boehner said, throwing a lifeline to the embattled Obama administration.

In a desperate bid to prevent being shown the door, Shinseki met with veterans groups Thursday to beg for their support. 

At the hour-long gathering, Shinseki, taking a page from President Obama’s “who? me?” playbook, blamed everyone but himself for the health care atrocities that took place under his watch.

Shinseki claimed he had been too trusting of reports from VA hospital employees, whining that during his 38-year military career he always thought he could rely on reports from the field. 

Shinseki also said he planned to hold VA employees who falsified waiting-list records in Phoenix accountable and make sure the 1,700 veterans in that city who are languishing in bureaucratic limbo receive prompt medical care.

Veterans groups were understandably skeptical.

“The question for all of us remains how will he address the breach of trust between veterans and the VA,” said Derek Bennett, chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“What does accountability mean? Does it mean firing people, demoting them, moving them? . . . I am still waiting to see what action follows the verbiage.”

In the end, Shinseki has done the American people a great service. 

As the Supreme Justice of the VA death panel system, Shenseki has become the public face of the heartless, overwhelmed, incompetent government health care bureaucracy that gets to decide who lives and who dies. He has given the public a taste of the nation’s health care future as government takes on an a bigger and bigger role.

It is no secret that VA health care and the health care delivery regime under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) are fundamentally the same. VA health care is a single-payer system, and so, it is hopelessly sclerotic and Soviet. Obamacare necessarily leads to a single-payer system.

The VA system is outdated and doomed. It cannot work. Like Obamacare, it is based on the ludicrous notion that medical services can be provided effectively outside of markets. History shows conclusively that governments are very, very bad at providing health care services. This is not an arguable point.

The Department of Veterans Affairs itself has a long, inglorious history of patient abuse and neglect that has stretched out over decades. Yet VA health care is held up by the establishment Left as the model for the future.

VA health care is a “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform,” says Paul Krugman, the alleged economist. Expanding VA health care is “one of my favorite ideas,” says JournoList propagandist-in-chief Ezra Klein.

It is only a matter of time before Shinseki is offered as a sacrifice to appease critics of the Obama administration.

And when he is, leftists like Krugman and Klein will blame the VA’s problems on Shinseki and claim that this inherently unsustainable system needs only to be tweaked a little more.

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