Time to clean up VA

No doubt some defenders of the federal bureaucracy will use an old last-ditch defense against allegations the Veterans Administration is endangering the health of many men and women who have served our country. Their reaction to horror stories from around the country will be: Where’s the documentation? These allegations are merely anecdotal – that is, compelling stories that do not illustrate a pattern of abuse, they will say.

But there is a difference in this case. These “anecdotes” come from veterans who have been failed by the VA – and sometimes from their survivors.

Too much “anecdotal evidence” from too many people in too many places has piled up for Congress not to take action against the VA. As for documentary evidence, that’s part of the problem: Unscrupulous VA officials are accused of doctoring records to cover up intolerably long waiting lists for VA health care.

Many veterans are full of praise for the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who treat them at VA?hospitals and clinics. But the problem appears to be with administrators in the agency – paper shuffling bureaucrats. A few evil actors in their ranks are giving the entire VA a black eye.

VA Undersecretary for Health Care Robert Petzel already has been forced to resign over the scandal. Some members of Congress are discussing how to give Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki more authority to fire those in the agency who have put veterans at risk – and to prod him to do so.

The current scandal should not be treated as just one more of the periodic outbreaks of complaints about the VA. It is time for a thorough review and housecleaning at the agency.

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