How I would fix the VA

By Eric Beasley

In the last week, I have given the Department of Veterans Affairs a lot of grief. So now it’s time to be fair in my analysis of this failed, socialized, and single-payer healthcare system.

Proposals to fix the VA range from full privatization to throwing more money at the problem and all points in between. None of those will work. Either there will be a large gap in healthcare availability for Veterans or the current problems will continue ad infinitum. So here’s my plan:

Step 1 – Fire Current Leadership

Not just the VA secretary. Not just the Deputy and Undersecretaries. Not just the facility directors. Not just the the division directors. ALL of them. Every person with “manager” or “director” or “supervisor” in their job title is put on notice, they will be fired.

Step 2 – New Leadership

Once the current and failing leadership is completely gone, we introduce a new design. Each VA hospital or program will be run by a former officer (O-4 to O-6) and a former senior enlisted leader (E-7 to E-9). This leadership only has one requirement, they must be a patient at the VA hospital that they will be running. They are given the same flexibility that they were given while in command of their military units. They can hire and fire as they see fit. They are given the ability to select their own management team at each VA facility or program, who will then fill the division directorships and other assorted management positions.

If you were one of the few effective and capable leaders within the VA before the changes, then you can interview for your job back. If you are an entitled slimeball that sat around collecting a paycheck, then you will be called some creative names and shown the door.

Step 3 – Veteran Preference

Currently in the Federal Government, only veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater are eligible for non-competitive hiring. Only for the VA, I would change this policy to allow for all veterans to be hired non-competitively.

Every veteran out there has heard horror stories from  trying to get care at the VA. I’ve heard more than I care to count. So simply put, nobody will exercise more due diligence to ensure proper delivery of health care than a veteran, whose brothers and sisters in arms rely on them. Veterans are tired of reading about our comrades in obituaries.

Step 4 – Use some common sense!

Let me give you an example of a common sense proposal. Say you were in charge of a VA hospital that lost 11 out of their 16 psychiatrists. Here’s a novel idea, perhaps instead of trying to hire full time replacements, be a little creative. Maybe it would be more effective to reach out to the local mental health community and find practitioners who were willing to see VA patients on a part time basis? Perhaps, there’s a psychiatrist out there that would be willing to see VA patients on Monday, and their regular patients Tuesday to Friday? Pay them as part time employees. Since they have a private practice, they could even see patients in their own offices instead of traveling to Martinsburg. Hell, you could go so far as to have mental health professionals on call, ready to receive patients as the needs grows.

Say the Frederick-area National Guard unit is scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan. The local VA can make sure they have the part-time capacity for those folks coming back to get the help they need. Almost like a Mental Health Professional Reserve unit….

When you are part of an entrenched top-down bureaucracy, this sort of solution goes against your core being. Creativity is shunned, in favor of archaic and existing policies and procedures. This is the sort of solution that an effective military commander would be able to implement.

You are probably thinking right now “But the military is all about policies and procedures!” That’s the stereotype, not the fact. Policies and procedures will always be ignored in favor of accomplishing the mission, unless you are a politician in a uniform (General Officer). That’s why I stopped my chart at O-6, because I want folks not worried about politics to run this organization.