Words, words and more words. Investigation after investigation. That's been the government response to allegations of misconduct and cover ups at 26 VA Health Care facilities across the nation, including right here in Phoenix.
It's a stage show.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, "If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period…Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified records at VA facilities has to be held accountable."
Great. Hold them all accountable to the fullest extent possible. Fire them. Jail them. Make sure they never can hold another government position or another position in health care.
Fire the guy running the show too, VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki. Heck, fire everyone. Sounds great, right?
There's one major problem with all this accountability and fire everyone talk, it diverts attention away from the true problems. The secret wait lists where veterans are waiting too long to see their doctors. In some cases they are dying while waiting for those appointments.
Investigate whoever you want. Fire whoever you want. Do all of that. But first make sure veterans are getting to see their doctors in a timely fashion. Make sure their health care goes above and beyond to ensure no veteran dies by waiting too long to see a doctor.
If the best way to do that is with a voucher system so veterans don't have to travel for hours to get to their appointments, do it. If that means getting veteran's a health care card so they can get an appointment anywhere outside the VA, do it. Do it now. Not in a month. Not in a year. There's no time to waste.
To make matters worse, the VA has known about, "inappropriate scheduling practices" since at least 2010. There's an internal memo written by VA officials that says as much. That four-year old memo says the "scheduling practices" were used to cover up long wait times. It appears nothing was done to fix the problem then. Just as it appears that nothing is being done right now to fix the problem even after the allegations have become public and everyone seems outraged about them.
In the case of the VA, actions matter. Words just aren't going cut it.
Neither does the stage show designed to make it look like there is action being taken. America's veterans deserve more.