The current Conventional Wisdom is that the Veterans Administration is about a news item and a half away from complete and utter chaos. Wombat-socho would like you to know that this has been brewing for a long, long time:
CNN points out in this excellent article (apparently they do still have good reporters, they just don’t let them on the air) the VA has been a disastrous pile of fail ever since 1921, when Congress formed the Veterans Bureau only to see it collapse into a slough of corruption so bad that it had to be abolished in 1930 and replaced with the Veterans Administration, which also took over pensions from the Interior Department and the National Home For Disabled Veterans, this last actually comprising a number of Federally operated homes for destitute and disabled veterans.
More recent woes, of course, have more recent causes:
Part of the problem is that while theoretically the VA is supposed to provide care for all veterans, in practice, it triages veterans based on whether their injuries/illnesses are combat-related (this was at the root of the Agent Orange brouhaha) and whether they can afford to pay for their own care. Another part of the problem is that the VA has arguably never had the assets to properly do its job, and while the VA budget has increased since 2008, it hasn’t kept up with the surge of elderly veterans from the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom who now comprise most of the patient load. This is also the reason why you’re seeing most of the “dying in line” cases coming out of the VA medical centers in Arizona and Florida — those states are very attractive to retirees, and so retired vets tend to flock there. You don’t hear about problems like this in Minneapolis, Washington DC and Boston, for example, because most retired vets either aren’t interested in living in climatic hellholes or simply can’t afford to live in the latter two areas due to their high costs of living. The number of Iraq/Afghanistan vets trying to fight their way through the paperwork to get their benefits is relatively small by comparison.
My youngest brother was complaining on Facebook earlier this week that the VA had put him on hold for more than half an hour. Someone (not me) explained to him that the ideal time to call is, well, there’s no ideal time, but right after a three-day weekend is about the worst. Still, being kept on the phone for 30 minutes isn’t much compared to what some of these guys have had to endure.