Over the weekend several veteran sponsored TV ads caught my attention. The most prominent being the VoteVets campaign where they are launching (actually launched on Aug 23) a half-million dollar campaign to oppose the idea of privatizing Veterans healthcare as opposed to continue to count on the much maligned Veterans Administration. While the ads were clear as to the reason that these supporters want only the VA to address their medical needs, I felt obligated to call and listen. What am I missing here?
Many of these brave veterans have serious medical issues and deserve the best our country has to offer in care and dedication. The answer to my question; (why oppose privatization?) was simple and direct…. From the VoteVets.org website “…I kept my promise to support and defend our country. The country also made a promise – that I’d be taken care of when I got home.” Got it, yet the United States is much more than just our dysfunctional government.
These men and women count on the VA for care and the fact is that these people do not have a choice. The promise that we all made to serve was an oath to our constitution, our way of life, and the very people that make up our nation. That oath was not restricted to a government, but all of the people, which includes the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and all the medical researchers and professionals that wish to contribute their skill and education to support the returning vets.
The massive problems of the VA have been well documented. Less publicized are the many areas where the VA has performed professionally and admirably, yet this inconsistency in quality is present in nearly every government program today, especially those agencies that have total autonomy and operate without competition from the private sector. There are too many examples of substandard and disgraceful conduct by our federal agencies.
The attorneys of the justice department were all directed by a federal judge to undergo ethics refresher training. This statement was shortly followed by the incredible ethics breach of the Attorney General. The IRS, in an Inspector General review was found to be “grossly negligent.” The former Sec. of State was “extremely careless.” Other government entities also perform at unacceptable levels. The TSA failed to find weapons and devices in 95% of cases during a wide-ranging exercise in our busiest airports. What was not emphasized is that those statistics reflect a steady increase in failure starting with a 76% failure less than a decade ago to 87% in the preceding undercover test. We must address why this across-the-board standard of performance has become acceptable and why are the consequences minimal? Would that level of performance be acceptable in the private sector?
The conclusion is that there is complacency when there is no competition or significant repercussion for sub-par performance. On the other hand, FAA statistics show that airports which use private air traffic controllers (ATCs) perform better at one-quarter the cost (537,000.00 to 2,000,000.00 per facility) of government controllers at airports of comparable traffic. Today, the private ATCs process 28% of our air traffic. Regarding the TSA, some airports have turned to contracted security companies and many more are considering that avenue along with a third option; hybrid security, a joint government and private venture.
Competition breeds quality and complacency results in failures. Additionally, when there is no competition in product availability, prices sky rocket and people take their responsibilities for granted. We have witnessed this with the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) where citizens cannot consider options outside of their own state and a growing number of individual states now offer only one option. Consider this; we all can go on Amazon.com or any other site and buy running shoes (or just about anything else) from any state (or internationally), yet we as private citizens in a free society do not have that freedom when it comes to our healthcare.
Neither do our wounded vets. What would a Big Mac cost if we couldn’t go across the street to Wendy’s or Burger King?
Our society is based on capitalist principles, the very same that our vets fought to protect, so I don’t comprehend why we would deny ourselves the benefit of choice. In June of this year, the NY Times published an article that included the results of a poll conducted by “Concerned Veterans for America” where 88% (of the 1000 polled) agreed that vets should be given a choice for the healthcare needs. I agree with this pro-choice argument. The very men and women who fight for freedoms should benefit from that ideology and must oppose the government imposed monopoly that denies freedom of choice in the most important of decisions to the brothers and sisters who served.
Perhaps that resistance is attributed to the thought that in many ways the military is still a close-knit and somewhat closed community. Perhaps there is a belief that a closed and dedicated VA more accurately understands their challenges and will provide better services. I understand, but respectfully disagree and the unresolved challenges still faced by many support this position.
A hybrid health care system for our vets will allow those who are receiving excellent and proper care from their respective VA locations keep their doctor (yes, I get the irony here!) yet allow the vets who are not, to choose other options. Americans are inherently competitive and that includes out medical professionals. The VA will now have a mandate to compete for the right to continue to serve and the civilian medical community can offer their services to those who volunteered to serve the nation. Allow our veterans to benefit from the very ideals they fought to protect.
Featured image courtesy of www.federalobserver.com