There is no such thing as a quick fix. If you’re over 20 and lived a little, you know what I mean. Quick fixes tend to lead to all sort of problems because you’re never addressing the underlying issue. You are cutting corners. You are delaying making a tough decision. Politicians in both political parties do this all the time.
A quick fix, such as firing the Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinsheki, made politicos, the media, and possibly a large number of voters, feel good. Why? The politicians “did something,” that’s why. The vox populi demanded justice, and the very people who allowed this problem to persist for decades gave it to them.
House Speaker John Boehner was just about the only politician last week on point on this issue. Removing Shinsheki ‘really changes nothing,’ Speaker Boehner said (video embedded below). The Speaker concludes that the Congress will hold the President accountable until “he makes this right.” That is all good, however, there is only so much the Republicans can do. They only control the House of Representatives.
What the President and other politicos did last week was kick the proverbial can (quality healthcare for veterans) down the street. Firing Shinsheki is red meat populism, hashtag politicking. For a reason yet unknown, and we may never know, Shinsheki is a scapegoat for a problem that people in this town know has existed for decades. While not excusing a potential leadership lapse, Shinsheki has had, up until now, an excellent and honorable career of public service. There is side story here. But that is a story for another day.
Before you can fix a problem, you need to know and appreciate why it is broken. Reading reports and talking to whistleblowers in an air-conditioned Capitol Hill or Executive branch agency office is not enough. Visiting a VA facility on fact-finding trips or patient visits is also not a way to appreciate the stress that the VA system has been under for decades.
Certain members of Congress, Congressional staff, as well as several White House officials should be required to use the VA. If you’re charged with oversight and management of the VA, you and your family should be required to experience how many veterans have been treated for a long time.
And I’m not talking about special for Members of Congress or Staff managed by the VA Congressional Affairs office. I’m suggesting that they be cycled through the system just like GI Joe and GI Jane must do. No perks. No fuss. Once this happens, I bet permanent fixes — I hope privatization is part of it — will follow in short order. If they were really serious about it, they’d do it as well as set up a task force to implement reform with a deadline of November 11, 2014, Veterans Day. That would make one week after the Congressional elections.