Clinton VA proposal is status quo, not reform
The situation at the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to deteriorate, with a continuous stream of new reports detailing the department’s corruption, incompetence and dysfunction.
Yet despite the mountain of evidence that the VA is failing in its mission of providing for the needs of military veterans, fixing the department’s dysfunctional bureaucracy remains difficult.
Why? Because too many in Washington are mired in old ways of thinking that allow the status quo to continue.
Case in point: Consider the VA plan issued by Hillary Clinton on Nov. 10. While billed as a “comprehensive” solution to the VA’s problems, the Clinton plan represents little more than a doubling down on the failures of the current system. Which is to say that if you’re satisfied with the VA’s performance under the Obama administration — marked by a toxic mix of scandals, mismanagement, waste and long wait times — then get ready for more of the same under a Clinton administration.
In its vagueness, Clinton’s plan is eerily reminiscent of the “reforms” promised by the Obama transition team in 2009. A half-decade later, we know how that turned out.
Clinton promises to somehow improve and modernize veterans’ health care by doing more or less exactly what the current VA leadership is trying to do. Lacking clear solutions, the Clinton VA plan relies on a blend of substance-free rhetoric and bureaucratic management-speak.
For instance, her plan says the VA “must embrace comprehensive process and systems integration across its health care enterprise to ensure a fully-networked and financially-sustainable organization that is dedicated to best practices and continual improvement in everything it does.” If you have no idea what that means, welcome to the club.
We should be skeptical about Clinton’s commitment to changing the VA. As recently as October — just weeks before issuing her VA reform plan — she downplayed the department’s problems in an interview with MSNBC. She said criticisms of the VA were exaggerated and partisan, claiming the scandal has “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.”
Tell that to the literally thousands of veterans nationwide who faced delayed or denied care as VA officials falsified wait records and awarded each other generous bonuses. Or tell that to the courageous whistleblowers at VA facilities around the U.S. who have stepped forth to expose wrongdoing — only to face hostile retaliation from their superiors.
Clinton backtracked when the veterans’ community and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle were justifiably miffed by her dismissals of the VA’s performance problems. Her hastily assembled “reform” plan is presumably meant to get us to forget her earlier comments.
Meanwhile, Clinton and her allies warn of a mythical effort to “privatize” and “abolish” the VA. Lacking solutions to the department’s dysfunction, and unwilling to stand up to the entrenched bureaucracy that has stymied reform, they resort to straw-man arguments and misdirection — including against my organization, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA).
Earlier this year, CVA convened a bipartisan task force that published a comprehensive proposal to fix VA health care by prioritizing care to veterans with service-connected injuries, enhancing employee accountability and giving veterans the option to seek private health coverage with VA funds. The task force proposed restructuring the Veterans Health Administration into an independent, government-chartered nonprofit corporation to allow for more flexibility and improved performance.
This is hardly the wild-eyed push to “privatization” Clinton and her allies pretend it to be. In fact, it’s an approach endorsed by AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest veterans service organizations. In September, an independent assessment commissioned by the VA also called for a “system-wide reworking” of VA health care and proposed a similar restructuring.
Unable or unwilling to offer effective solutions, Clinton and her allies attack the people who actually have offered substantive and serious proposals to address the VA’s well-documented failures. It’s drearily predictable.
But it’s also indicative of the challenge that VA reform will face. The problem is much larger than the proposal floated by a particular policymaker. The Clinton proposal is emblematic of a type of thinking that has been repeatedly proven wrong.
The lesson: Veterans and supporters of VA reform should carefully review and question all policymakers’ proposals for fixing the VA — because it’s clear that much of what is being proposed will not even begin to fix what is broken.
Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America and a Fox News contributor. A U.S Army infantry veteran, he served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.