The VA employs more than 288,000 staff at over 1,700 sites around the country and manages the largest medical health education and training program in the United States. The VA budget request for 2014 was $152.7 billion including $66.5 billion in discretionary resources and $86.1 billion in mandatory funding.
The VA says their mission is to “Honor America’s Veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being.”
Right now, the VA is in a mess from the top down and the bottom up. We’ve all heard horrific stories in the past few months of Veterans being put on lists, Veterans dying for lack of care, one who recently died at a VA center when the emergency center was a 5 minute walk away. Things like these should never happen, but unfortunately problems have been ongoing for years and under many different administrations. If anything was more bipartisan, the problems with the federally run VA is it.
A Veteran blogger friend sent me an article which showed scandals throughout the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs from 1921 to the most recent horrific scandals. Congress created the Veterans Bureau in 1921 to administer assistance to World War I veterans. It became so corrupt that it was abolished in 1930, when The Veterans Administration was established in its place. Since then there have been protests by Veterans who weren’t receiving promised war bonuses, a VA Administrator’s resignation for shoddy care and in 1946 The American Legion sought for the removal of VA Administrator Gen. Omar Bradley, claiming ongoing lack of facilities, troubles faced by hundreds of thousands of veterans in getting services and a proposal to limit access to services for some combat veterans.
Fast forward to the mid ‘70s when a GAO investigation found shortcomings in patient care and increasing patient loads which were contributing to a decline in the quality of care. Again in the ‘80s when VA director Robert Nimmo resigned because of pressure from veterans’ groups. He had once compared symptoms of exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War to little more than “teenage acne,” and was criticized for wasteful spending. In 1983 the GAO issued a report supporting veterans’ claims that the VA had failed to provide them with enough information and assistance about Agent Orange exposure. How many Veterans do we know now who have died from or who are suffering effects from Agent Orange exposure? Numerous articles could be written on that alone.
Recently when Secretary Shinseki finally resigned, there was a petition by many Veterans to nominate Kenneth Fisher as the new Secretary of the VA. Kenneth Fisher is the CEO of Fisher House, founded by his late uncle which is a not-for-profit organization that builds “comfort homes” for families of hospitalized military personnel and veterans. Since its beginning, Fisher House Foundation has grown and built 63 houses in the United States and Germany, and there is now one for British Families in the UK as well.
Fisher Houses have served more than 22,000 families and have saved more than $200 million in lodging and travel costs since their founding. Kenneth Fisher has been awarded numerous awards and medals for his dedicated service to military service members, Veterans and organizations including being appointed by George HW Bush to the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors in 2007 which conducted a comprehensive review of the care provided to soldiers who return from the battlefield. Fisher would seem an ideal candidate to head the VA, as a civilian who has proven that he cares about our military and Veterans and has experience in managing care facilities.