The Veterans Administration’s Mess

Bill Neinast

Notwithstanding the pants that are frequently on fire and the long necklace of pinocchios, President Obama deserves some sympathy.  He just cannot catch a break.  Scandals keep growing and following him everywhere on the golf courses, fund raising trips, and even on the few times he is in Washington.

As mentioned here several weeks ago, his attempt to divert attention from the VA and IRS by bringing that poor lost soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, home from a brutal five year captivity by the Taliban did not turn out so well.  When the cost of the homecoming was made public, the freedom for Bergdahl blew up in the President’s face.

Taking five dedicated, hard line terrorists committed to the destruction of this country out of GITMO and sending them to live in a luxurious hotel with phone and internet service in Qatar did not sit well with the American public.  Particularly when the assurances that Qatar would keep an eye on the terrorists came from the man whose pants are frequently on fire.

So, thought the man in the White House, let’s create another diversion.  Let’s capture that man who was one of the planners and leaders of the massacre in Benghazi and who has been in plain sight in Libya for two years and try him for his criminal acts.  Do not turn him over to the military, however, for trial in a military tribunal as an enemy combatant. Bring him to the U.S. and try him as a civilian with all the rights accorded citizens in criminal trials.  

That raises some interesting legal questions.  What jurisdiction does a U.S. court have over a foreign national captured in a foreign nation for an act committed in that foreign nation?  Does the fiction of a U.S. embassy being “U.S. soil” impose U.S. law on anyone entering the embassy?  Does the consulate that was attacked in Benghazi have the same fiction of being U.S. soil as an embassy?  If all the action that resulted in the murders occurred or resulted from public property outside the consulate, does any U.S. jurisdiction attach?   Is the Israeli kidnapping of Adolph Eichmann in Argentina and trying and executing him in Israel for his crimes in Germany legal precedent for the U.S. doing the same with the Libyan prisoner?

Just wondering if those questions will be addressed when Ahmed Abu Chattel, the Libyan detainee, is arraigned in the U.S.

Those questions, however, will not have the President’s desired effect of feathering interest in the VA scandal.  The fraud and mismanagement in that agency is beyond comprehension.

One of the many unbelievable actions of violating public trust in that dysfunctional agency that is not getting much notice is the payment of bonuses in five figure amounts to incompetent managers.  This squandering of public money is almost unnoticed in the concern over the medical treatment, or lack thereof, of veterans.

Here, then, are suggestions for beginning a fix of the problem.

The simplest first.  Pass a law prohibiting the payment of bonuses to government employees.  The amount appropriated for bonuses in the VA should be repealed or redirected to enlarge VA medical staffs for easier access for veterans.

Then consider who should be eligible for VA care.  

Here, for example, are a few of the types or classes of veterans.  Old and young, combat survivors, peace time servers, draftees, volunteers, disabled, uninjured and unaffected, reside within city blocks of a VA facility, live in the boondocks several hundred miles from a facility, etc.  Should each of these have the same access and benefits as everyone else?

Is it logical, or even fair, to provide lifetime benefits to a man or woman who was drafted for two years of service in peace time?  What about a draftee during wartime who never left the U.S. or served overseas not in combat?  Should it make any difference if the service mentioned above was by an enlistee for three years?  If this person worked for only two or three years for any private business and suffered no injuries or disabilities, would he earn any permanent benefits?

Every veteran from WWII and Korea and some from Vietnam are now eligible for Medicare.  Why not cut those veterans from VA roles and require them to get care under Medicare.  If otherwise qualified by military service, provide them with supplemental insurance like the TRICARE For Life provided for retired military personnel.  

This would allow the older veterans to get care from medical care and facilities of their choice and, in some cases, would eliminate the travel time and costs of going to VA facilities in distant localities.

Removing non-combat and Medicare eligible veterans from the VA roles might reduce those roles substantially and thus provide quicker and better access to VA medical care.

So here’s the perspective.

The VA fiasco may be the most troublesome scandal plaguing the President.  It is also the most difficult to quell.

The suggestions above might provide a handle to get a grasp on the situation.  They will, however, take a long time to implement.  Just revising the regulations defining veterans and who is entitled to what would take years.

A good faith start on the problem and its solution, however, might tamp down the outrage enough to give the President a little break for a bit more enjoyment of his golf.


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