If a government official philosophizes over the importance of waiting time for his services, you might think he’d make a comparison with something like TSA security lines in airports. Or even the waiting time to talk to a Social Security representative or a postal clerk.
But Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald chose a different analogy on Monday, during a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Robert McDonald on Monday compared the length of time veterans wait to receive health care at the VA to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland, and said his agency shouldn’t use wait times as a measure of success because Disney doesn’t either.
“When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
There is, of course, a key difference between Mr. McDonald’s services and Disney’s. Far more of Disney’s customers are still alive at the time services are finally made available to them.
The “kind of measure” McDonald is looking for is just dandy when the customer is around to be polled about satisfaction afterward. When nearly 30% of the customers perish before receiving the services, not so much.
More than 238,000 of the 847,000 veterans in the pending backlog for health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs have already died, according to an internal VA document provided to The Huffington Post.
Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA’s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta and a past whistleblower on the VA’s failings, provided HuffPost with an April 2015 report titled “Analysis of Death Services,” which reviews the accuracy of the VA’s veteran death records. The report was conducted by staffers in the VA Health Eligibility Center and the VA Office of Analytics. …
As of April, there were 847,822 veterans listed as pending for enrollment in VA health care. Of those, 238,657 are now deceased, meaning they died after they applied for, but never got, health care.
An update three months later suggested that more than a third of veterans died while waiting for VA health services.
Paul Ryan alertly pointed this out in a tweet after news of McDonald’s clever analogy broke.
This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines. https://t.co/OxfT3AYzTi
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) May 23, 2016
Of course, who knows for sure? VA offices have been exposed for cooking their books to hide true waiting times for thousands of veterans. There could be more than 307,000 who died while on a waiting list that, as of September 2015, reportedly had 850,000 on it.
McDonald’s cavalier approach is in the fine tradition of Ms. Germaine Clarno, a former federal employee and union president, who didn’t notify Republicans in a Republican-controlled Congress about the problems she knew of at the VA. Why? Because…they’re Republicans. A helpful Democrat then crafted the excuse for her that she, as a union official, would get a “frosty reception” if she took the VA’s problems to Republicans.
Now, she did report the problems to Congressional Democrats. They were in the happy position of being able to shrug and blame their apathy on Republicans. Ms. Clarno now feels remorse, speculating that if she had swallowed the bitter pill of talking to Republicans, she might have saved a few lives. Read the story at the link above if you’re incredulous about this.
Veterans who die waiting for medical care may be better off than the one who was beaten to death by a VA nurse in Louisiana. The nurse has been kept on the VA payroll since the incident in 2013 (his trial scheduled for March 2016 was delayed until September 2016).
But if the veteran body count is regrettable, at least the VA has been forward-leaning and money-spending about installing solar panels at its facilities.
In his final State of the Union address in January, President Obama cited veterans’ health services as one of his administration’s signal successes. (Emphasis added.)
“In fact, it’s in that spirit that we have made progress these past seven years,” Obama said. “That’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. That’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector. That’s how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.”
Disney should have such successes on its record.