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VA Scandal & Fighting Fire with Turpentine

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By Leslee Kulba- Scandals are for weasels. They beg the petty side of human nature to suppress more adult tendencies to forget and commence constructive cleanup. But the mass media is always caught in the fray of whacking at hornets’ nests to stir up public frenzy, thus creating chasms of us vs. them – and sales.

Unfortunately, the bulk of humanity has been shamed into losing its moral compass, or perhaps only using it in the closet. For that reason, we as a society are unable to sense when something is wrong. Instead of appealing to the conscience that provides the world’s religions with the same sense of right and wrong, we must appeal to books and books of legislation. We abdicate personal responsibility for helping others to an abstraction called government. Instead of looking our brother in the eye and saying, with a tear, “I feel for you, let me help you, here’s my sacrifice;” we are encouraged to look the other way and pay taxes to a big government. Government, in turn, hires administrators; appoints bureaucrats; establishes protocols, measures, and paperwork requirements; and seeks ways to expand, or at least to maintain jobs and justify budgets.

Centralized control can make sense for big issues, such as national defense, but it makes no sense at all at the personal level of each and every individual’s life. Healthcare is a personal matter, best fulfilled by a patient’s relationship with his physician(s) of choice. People should be able to seek the type and level of attention they want without broad-brushstroke protocols assuming the Amish dude who broke his knee in Pennsylvania has the same medical perspectives as the hippie chick in California wanting a third abortion.

That moral compass you may have stashed in your closet, or even gotten rid of at a garage sale, could have told you Obamacare is a bad idea. It promotes big government to messiah status, delivers too much power to central control, turns people into sniveling knaves, and fails to deliver services with discretion.

But since nobody was listening to warnings about a tyrannical government consuming the private sector by thumbing its nose at the very checks and balances which elected representatives vainly swear to uphold as the Supreme Law of the Land, we have Obamacare. And the media has decided the best way to fight it now could be scandal.

Hitting the headlines all over is a report released a couple weeks ago about excessively long wait times at VA hospitals and attempts to cover up the problem. At least eighteen reports saying the same thing have been published since the year 2000. It is no secret that government-controlled healthcare systems are characterized by long lines, but the latest report got enough attention to hit home.

It has been said that one story makes an anecdote, but many could make a theory. Obama’s hype arm, which has gone by the initials OFA with name changes, used social media to beg people to “share their stories” about why healthcare needed not just reform but a fundamental transformation into Obamacare. The VA scandal, without the “grassroots” promptings, managed to get everybody talking. One girl in Oregon complained about the trickle-down effects from delays for basic, elective scanning, that were the result of insufficient tech support; while in Albuquerque, it took eight VA cardiologists to do the work of one in the private sector. Clearly, the VA was too large to target local needs in the budgeting process, and too large to make mid-course corrections within a reasonable timeframe.

Former Asheville VA employee Dawn Westmoreland recently got a spot in the Christian Science Monitor for whistle-blowing. Her publicist begged an interview with the Tribune. Westmoreland claims while working at the VA’s Mid-Atlantic Consolidated Patient Accounting Center, she saw a lot of nepotism and hiring from without. She estimates one-third of the 550 employees “were family and friends.” She reported it to management and then to a couple of federal agencies. Following that, she claims she was bullied.

Complaints range from working in a cubicle that was too small for a woman who is almost 6-feet tall and being stalked, to being denied promotions and training that would qualify her for promotion. Westmoreland claims she was harassed to the point of being ambulanced twice for medical attention. While continuing to work at the VA, she kept her food and water on her person, she felt so threatened. Westmoreland settled out of court with the VA, and she now uses the money thus received to support a web site that coaches women on how to stand up against bullying.

Just about anybody who has worked in a corporate situation has seen nepotism at play, has seen less qualified applicants promoted over their head, and has had to work in less than comfortable circumstances. What’s more, Mission Health, the Sisters of Mercy, and other local healthcare providers have long been notorious for long waits, mistakes, over-billing, and other things one never wants to see at a hospital. But private-sector shortcomings do not excuse those of the public sector. Waste, fraud, and abuse must be remediated, but not through a fundamental transformation to socialized medicine.

Suggested reforms for the VA include downsizing. Some think the VA has gone overboard in coddling to claims of PTSD. Others think the VA should turn certain functions over to the private sector, whatever that means in US healthcare anymore. In the end, Obamacare is so un-American, its repeal should not require a sensational news story.

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